San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem at Friday night’s preseason game, telling the NFL the following morning that he is “not going to show pride for 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,” Kaepernick said after the game. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
In a statement, the 49ers said that while the National Anthem is an opportunity to “honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens.” But, the statement continued, the 49ers said they respected a player’s right to “choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
The NFL, too, said no player is forced to stand for the National Anthem. “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem,” they said in a statement.
Kaepernick has not addressed his decision on his Twitter feed, which he mainly retweets others to express his support for civil rights, his problems with white supremacists as well as Black Lives Matter causes.
Kaepernick is the first athlete to publicly refuse to stand for the National Anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in the NBA in 1996. Abdul-Rauf was briefly suspended by the NBA and then agreed to stand for the National Anthem.