The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Colin Kaepernick says he is not Muslim, blames fear of protest on Islamophobia

Colin Kaepernick plans to continue taking a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Chris Carlson/AP File)

Colin Kaepernick denied Wednesday that he is a Muslim and said he thinks rumors of his conversion have been fueled by Islamophobia stoked by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I have great respect for the religion, know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people,’’ Kaepernick told reporters after rumors spread about his faith. “But I think that [rumor] comes along with people’s fear of this protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country. People are terrified of them to the point where Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous.”

Kaepernick has made headlines and become a lightning rod for debate after his decision to remain seated during the national anthem to protest police violence against black Americans and discrimination against people of all colors. Kaepernick modified his protest during “Salute the Military Night” last week by kneeling rather than sitting and he plans to continue to kneel when the 49ers open their season Monday night.

Roger Goodell on Colin Kaepernick: ‘We believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL’

Since his protest came to light, Kaepernick has found support from President Obama and intense criticism elsewhere, with former NFL player Rodney Harrison apologizing for saying Kaepernick “is not black.” He has seen his No. 7 jersey burned by fans and sales of it rise to the top in the NFL’s online shop. It has been dizzying.

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that he was asked about his faith. Kaepernick, who will back up starter Blaine Gabbert in the opener, has tattoos of Bible verses, including one Psalms translation that reads: “You arm me with strength for battle. You make my adversaries bow at my feet.”

The quarterback explained Wednesday that his girlfriend, Nessa Diab, is a Muslim and that her religion has had an impact on his but added that he has not converted.

Shaquille O’Neal on Colin Kaepernick’s protest: ‘I would never do that’

“The impact is just conversations that we constantly have,’’ he said. “This is an open discussion that I have with many people, not just my woman. She is Muslim. Her family is Muslim, I have great respect for them. I have great respect for people’s right to believe what they want to believe. And I don’t think anybody should be prosecuted or judged based on what their beliefs are.’’