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US Athlete Provokes Furor by Sitting During National Anthem

  • Ken Bredemeier

FILE - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands on the field before their NFL pre-season football game against the Denver Broncos in San Francisco, California.

FILE - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands on the field before their NFL pre-season football game against the Denver Broncos in San Francisco, California.

In the United States, millions of sports fans patriotically stand when the country's national anthem is played before games, but a pro football quarterback protesting racial inequality has ignited a firestorm by staying seated and says he will continue to do so until he sees significant progress.

San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick sat during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the start of three pre-season exhibition games, quickly drawing the condemnation of many fans when it became known last week, including one who burned his replica jersey to the accompaniment of the national anthem.

Kaepernick, the biological son of a white mother and black father and raised, after adoption, by white parents, said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

In an extensive locker room interview with reporters Sunday, Kaepernick said, "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."

He said, "There's a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality." He cited numerous cases in which police in U.S. cities in recent years have killed African-American men in disputed street confrontations, with police often, but not always, cleared of criminal liability.

"There's people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable," Kaepernick said. "People are being given paid leave for killing people. That's not right. That's not right by anyone's standards."

WATCH: Why 49ers QB is sitting out the National Anthem

Neither the National Football League nor the management of Kaepernick's team has condemned his protest.

"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony," the team said. "In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."

Kaepernick, who is being paid $14.3 million this season, led the 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl, the NFL's annual championship game, but since then has played poorly and been demoted to being a backup quarterback.

Kaepernick said he is prepared to accept whatever "consequences that come along with" his protest.

"There's a lot of people that don't want to have this conversation," he said. "They're scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not to be treated the same way. Those are things I'm prepared to handle ...

"At this point, I've been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that," he said. "I can't look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I've had."

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