San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy by purposely sitting during the playing of the national anthem at Friday’s 49ers-Packers preseason game as a protest against what he believes to be the oppression of African-Americans in the United States.
But Giants receiver Victor Cruz, whose father was African-American and his mother is of Puerto Rican descent, said after Saturday night’s Jets-Giants preseason game that he disagreed with Kaepernick’s actions.
“I think, personally, the flag is the flag,” Cruz said. “Regardless of how you feel about things that are going on in America today, and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you’ve got to respect the flag, and you’ve got to stand up with your teammates.”
Kaepernick told NFL Network that he is “not going to stand up [for the anthem] to 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.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Saturday that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” The 49ers said in a statement that 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.”
Cruz said he disagreed with Kaepernick because “it’s bigger than just you, in my opinion. I think you go up there, you’re with a team, and you go and you know you pledge your allegiance to the flag and sing the national anthem with your team and then you go about your business, whatever your beliefs are.
“Colin is his own man, he decided to sit down and that is his prerogative but on a personal standpoint. I think you have to stand up there with your team and understand and it’s this game, and what’s going on around this country is bigger than just you.”
Giants guard Justin Pugh took to Twitter on Saturday to disagree with Kaepernick’s actions, calling them “disrespectful to all the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect this country. I will be STANDING during the national anthem tonight (at the Giants-Jets preseason game). Thank you to ALL (Gender, Race, Religion) that put your lives on the line for that flag.”
Pugh added, “To clarify, I’m not saying I know what it’s like to walk in someone’s shoes, I don’t. Just stating what the national anthem means to me.”
Pugh’s brother, Michael, is a member of the U.S. Air Force and served in the Iraq War.