49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before Friday’s preseason game against the Packers in Santa Clara, telling NFL.com’s Steve Wyche after the fact that his decision came in protest of the racial inequalities that exist in the United States.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media. "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."
NFL.com reports Kaepernick has sat out the anthem in “at least one” of San Francisco’s other preseason games.
The 49ers issued a statement that affirmed Kaepernick’s right to choose whether or not to stand.
“The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the team wrote. “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 also issued a statement on Saturday, a reminder that players are “encouraged but not required to stand” during the anthem.
"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," Kaepernick said. "I am not looking for approval. 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."
Kaepernick is of mixed descent, and told NFL.com that after discussing things with his family, decided to be more outspoken about racial issues. He is adopted, and was raised by white parents and siblings in California.
Kaepernick helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, but is currently battling Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback spot, which he lost last season.