Taking a stand … or, uh, not. San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick found himself in a social media firestorm after he refused to stand during the national anthem at an NFL game on Friday, August 26.
The 49ers quarterback, 28, noticeably stayed seated on the sidelines as his fellow teammates and thousands of fans rose for the playing of the anthem before the 49ers lost to the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick later explained the reasoning behind his protest during an interview with NFL Media.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he explained after Friday night’s game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The 49ers also released a statement about Kaepernick’s controversial move, saying, “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. 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.”
The NFL issued a statement as well, explaining that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
Several fans immediately took to social media to slam the athlete for his controversial decision.
“How can a football player make millions of $ in America, but can’t honor the flag that gave him those millions?” one user tweeted. Another wrote, “Disrespectful. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. Use your 100M to make positive change, not further divide.”
Kaepernick, however, stands by his decision. “I am not looking for approval,” he told NFL Media on Friday. “I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”