49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spoke to reporters for about 18 minutes on Sunday, a couple days after the sixth-year quarterback didn’t stand up for the national anthem before a preseason game.
He answered 33 questions. He stood by his convictions and explained further why he is choosing to express his beliefs this way. He acknowledged the consequences that could arise, that he addressed the team and had conversations with teammates, and whether the team or the league has tried to get him to back off.
49ers coach Chip Kelly won’t object if Kaepernick continues to sit during the national anthem. He also said Kaepernick’s decision won’t affect his shot at the starting job or his position on the depth chart.
“We recognize his right to do that,” he said Saturday. “It’s not my right to tell him not to do something. That’s his right as a citizen.”
The message coming out of the 49ers locker room seems to be that everything is business as usual. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert said Kaepernick was normal in meetings and practice. Linebacker NaVarro Bowman said the most important thing is that the team sticks together. Tight end Bruce Miller said it hasn’t been a distraction.
Tight end Vance McDonald said he thought it brought the team closer because it started an honest conversation and helped build trust.
Center Daniel Kilgore said he was angry at first, but then was swayed after Kaepernick stated his case.
Not only did Kaepernick’s decision open the door to conversation among his teammates, it also blew it off the hinges around the league and the country. Here are some of the reactions from around the league:
■ The 49ers statement: “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 to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
■ NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”
■ Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “Not here to talk about political commentary, ideology, and all of that.”
■ Dolphins coach Adam Gase: “Every guy’s got their position on certain things. They’re able to express it in certain ways. There’s nothing that says they can’t do that. Our guys in our locker room, if they have certain stances they stand behind, then it’s not my right to say you can’t do that.”
he has the right to choose not to stand. just as you have the right to disagree with his stance. round and round we go.— feeno (@ArianFoster) August 27, 2016
you can't be be selective and dictate what freedoms this country stands for. you're free to have any religious/political views you feel.— feeno (@ArianFoster) August 27, 2016
■ Former Patriot Damien Woody:
This is what comes with a free society, unless ppl hate democracy— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) August 27, 2016
Kaep has every right to express his feelings/beliefs and ppl have every right to disagree. That's ok folks!— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) August 27, 2016
■ Eagles roookie linebacker Myke Tavarres was planning to sit during the national anthem before Philadephia’s preseason game against the Jets on Thursday night: “We’ve got an issue in this country in this day and age, and I feel like somebody needs to step up and we all need to step up. We’ve got that right. There’s just a lot going on that people don’t want to talk about, and I feel like us as athletes, we’re looked at as role models. And I feel like with Colin Kaepernick, he’s doing a great job for standing up in what he believes in, and most people may not like that, but that’s his opinion, he’s entitled to it, and I respect him for doing it.”
But then his agent, Corey Williams, convinced him not to.
Williams: "Myke does not want to be a distraction to the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Myke's goal is and always will be to make..."— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) August 29, 2016
■ Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho:
■ Eagles coach Doug Pederson: “We respect the national anthem, its history and our many freedoms as Americans that it celebrates. We also respect an individual’s freedom of expression.”
■ Bills coach Rex Ryan: “Anytime I talk to my team about that, if there’s personal beliefs or whatever that keep you from doing it, I understand. But at the same time, you know, you’ve got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country. I think that’s an opportunity right there just to show respect, and I think that’s why when you see our team, every one of us are on that line and that’s kind of our way of giving thanks.”
■ Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz: “I think, personally, the flag is the flag. Regardless of how you feel about things that are going on in America today and things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you’ve got to respect the flag.
“You’ve got to stand up with your teammates. It’s bigger than just you, in my opinion. I think you go up there, your with your team, and you pledge your allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem with your team. And then you go about your business no matter what your beliefs are.”
■ Kaepernick’s former coach, Jim Harbaugh, now in his second season as Michigan’s head coach, gave an answer that required a follow-up tweet for clarification:
Jim Harbaugh on Colin Kaepernick: "I acknowledge his right to do it. But I don't respect the motivation or the action."— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) August 29, 2016
I apologize for misspeaking my true sentiments. To clarify, I support Colin's motivation. It's his method of action that I take exception to— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) August 29, 2016
The story also inspired many thought-provoking pieces on Kaepernick and his stand:
■ The Undefeated’s Dominique Foxworth: Kaepernick’s protest is as American as that flag.
“And throughout history, rather than making the appropriate sacrifices, the most powerful among us sent police in to cure issues of poverty and the first lack of opportunity with arrests and guns. And today we see the result. Saddest of all is rather than Kaepernick’s stance pushing us to work for a cure to the root of these problems, we will just put on the jersey of our team and root for either side to win a game that can’t be won.”
■ The Bay Area New Group’s Marcus Thompson II: Kaepernick sat during national anthem and sparked national debate. What’s your contribution?
“Let’s make this even easier for you: before chiming in on Kaepernick’s protest, ask yourself what are you doing to help any cause? Because if you are just screaming from the stands, the people on the field don’t hear what you’ve got to say.”
■ Here’s an intriguing Storify of this Twitter user’s thoughts that starts by asking what patriotism and sports have to do with one another.
■ The other side of the argument is presented by the Houston Chronicle’s Brian Smith: Kaepernick has rights, but he’s not correct.
“Kaepernick’s “protest” has the impact of a selfie in the Instagram age.
“America allows Kaepernick to make a base salary of $11.9 million by sitting on the bench and failing to deliver on his athletic promise. The safety our flag provides also gives Kaepernick the right to defy it. The freedom so many have died for and will continue to sacrifice their lives for — the America Kaepernick so ignorantly takes for granted — allows him to be an idiot in the USA.”
Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.