SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Defiant and determined to be a conduit for U.S. change, Colin Kaepernick plans to sit through the national anthem for as long as he feels is appropriate and until he sees significant progress in America — and specifically when it comes to race relations.
He knows he could be cut by San Francisco for this stand. Criticized, ostracized — he’ll go it all alone if need be, and he’s not asking anyone to follow his lead. The quarterback realizes he might be treated poorly in some road cities, and he’s ready for that, too, saying he’s not overly concerned about his safety, but “if something happens that’s only proving my point.”
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said Sunday at his locker. “To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Two days after he refused to stand for the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 49ers’ preseason loss to the Packers, Kaepernick said he will make his point for as long as necessary, just as he has chosen to do all preseason.
Whatever the consequences, Kaepernick insists he will know “I did what’s right.” He said he hasn’t heard from the NFL or anyone else — and it won’t matter if he does.
“No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about,” he said. “I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.”
Kaepernick took the field Sunday with the 49ers as his stance drew chatter across NFL camps.
He addressed his teammates in the morning and explained his viewpoints, some agreeing with his message but not necessarily his method. Some said they know he has offended his countrymen, some didn’t even know what he had done.
“Every guy on this team is entitled to their opinion. We’re all grown men,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.
“I agree with what he did but not in the way he did it,” wideout Torrey Smith said. “That’s not for me. He has that right. Soldiers have died for his right to do exactly what he did . . . I know he’s taken a lot of heat for it. He understands that when you do something like that it does offend a lot of people.”
Both Bowman and Smith are African American.
Kaepernick criticized presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whom he called “openly racist;” called out police brutality against minorities; and pushed for accountability.
“You can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist,” Kaepernick said. “That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”
In college at Nevada, Kaepernick said, police drew guns on him and his teammates and roommates as they were moving one day.
He said his stand is not against men and women in the military fighting and losing their lives for Americans’ rights and freedoms.
“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality,” said Kaepernick, whose adoptive parents are Caucasian. “There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”
On Sunday, he stopped briefly on a side field to talk with Dr. Harry Edwards and they shared a quick embrace before the quarterback grabbed his helmet and took the field. Edwards is a sociologist and African-American activist who helped plan the “Olympic Project for Human Rights” before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where U.S. sprinters and medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads through the anthem on the medal podium in their black power protest.
After swirling trade talks all offseason following Kaepernick’s three surgeries and subpar 2015 season, he has done everything so far but play good football — and he doesn’t plan for this to be a distraction.
Coach Chip Kelly said Saturday he still hasn’t decided on his starting quarterback in a competition between Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, who took over the job from Kaepernick last November and has vowed to be the No. 1 again.
“That’s his right as a citizen,” Kelly said of Kaepernick’s decision. “We recognize his right as an individual to choose to participate or not participate in the national anthem.”
Now, Kaepernick is prepared for whatever comes next.
“I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation,” he said. “They’re scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not to be treated the same way. Those are things I’m prepared to handle . . . At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that. I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had.”