San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines off the field last week by remaining seated during the national anthem as it played before the start of a preseason NFL game.
Kaepernick told a reporter that he was protesting racism in the US and refused “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. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said.
Perhaps the most famous athlete to protest the national anthem was the NBA’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who sat on the bench before a 1996 game — and league commissioner David Stern reportedly issued him a fine and a suspension.
Kaepernick doesn’t appear to have suffered the same fate. Responses from inside the NFL have been mixed, and critics from outside the league have already called out Kaepernick for his decision, including NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, who expressed his displeasure with Kaepernick.
But an outpouring of support is coming from current and former service members using the Twitter hashtag #veteransforkaepernick.
The tweets didn’t necessarily say the military members agreed with Kaepernick’s position, but they appeared to offer strong support for his right to speak his mind.
Some tweeters suggested they agreed with Kaepernick.
It’s unclear whether Kaepernick will face some sort of retribution for his decision; the 49ers have issued a statement supporting a person’s right to protest.