San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his national anthem protest fully aware of the criticism he might face and on Tuesday he said that that criticism had escalated to death threats.
“To me, if something like that were going to happen, you’ve proved my point,” Kaepernick told reporters, describing the aftermath of his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
“It would be loud and clear for everyone why it happened. That would move this movement forward at a greater speed than what it is even now. Granted, I don’t want that to happen. But that’s the realization of what could happen.”
Kaepernick protested during preseason games, with the world taking notice at the end of August. Since then, several other NFL players have joined him. Most recently, Malcolm Jenkins, Steven Means and Ron Brooks raised their fists in protest before the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Monday Night Football” game. Kaepernick originally remained seated on the bench, but modified that so that people didn’t think he was protesting the military. Kaepernick has been joined by high school and college players as well as by U.S. national team soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Kaepernick, who spoke for about 12 minutes with reporters, said that he has heard racial slurs since starting his protest.
“They either don’t care about what’s going on, or they don’t understand it,” Kaepernick said. “I find it very hard that people don’t understand what’s going on. I think the message has been out there loud and clear for quite some time now. …
“There’s a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country. And people don’t like to address that. And they don’t like to address what the root of this protest is.”
He went on to talk about the shooting of an unarmed black man by police last week in Tulsa. Police video shows Terence Crutcher walking to the passenger side of his SUV with his hands raised. Video shows one officer shooting him with a stun gun and another fatally shooting him. The U.S. Justice Department and Tulsa police are investigating the shooting.
“They shot and killed a man and walked around like it wasn’t a human being,” Kaepernick said. “People are being killed and not even being treated as human beings. No one went and checked on him. No one tried to resuscitate him. Nothing. They walked around, went about their business and made up lies to cover up the murder they just committed. That’s not right, and they should be in prison for that.”
Since his protest, some fans have burned his jersey, but others have made it one of the NFL’s top sellers in its online shop. Kaepernick plans to donate proceeds he receives from the jersey sales to community organizations and the first $1 million he earns this season. On Tuesday, he said he will donate $100,000 every month for the next 10 months to different organizations, with a website being designed to track how the money is used.