By Ty Schadt, Contributing Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked quite a controversy during the NFL preseason by refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” stated Kaepernick. “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.”
Kaepernick lost the starting job to Blaine Gabbert last season after playing eight games and posting a mediocre 5:6 touchdown to interception ratio. According to NFL.com, Niners coach Chip Kelly told reporters that the quarterback’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen” and said, “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
So, is Kaepernick’s protest justified or unjustified? Depends on who you ask.
Several 49ers fans expressed their displeasure with their team’s second-string QB by uploading videos of themselves burning his jersey on social media.
According to USA Today, former teammate Alex Boone ripped Kaepernick, stating, “It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there. That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand that. At the same time, you should have some respect for people who served, especially people who lost their life to protect our freedom.” Boone spent five years in San Francisco with Kaepernick before signing to play with the Vikings last offseason.
Much like Boone, freshman Matthew Barnes stated his disappointment in Kaepernick’s decisions. “It’s utterly disrespectful. You don’t stand for the flag because you live in the country, you stand for the people who died for it.”
Former coach Jim Harbaugh weighed in on the situation at a press conference by stating, “I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action.” Harbaugh is currently the coach of the University of Michigan, but he coached the 49ers during their run to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season.
“He thinks he’s taking a stand, but he’s really not,” said sophomore Jacob Johnson. “Kaepernick is trying to make a statement and a stupid one at that. He needs to realize he’s not going about it the right way.”
Despite all the backlash spurned by his actions, several NFL players have joined Kaepernick in protest. In the last week of the preseason, Eagles rookie Myke Tavarres, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane and 49ers safety Eric Reid all sat through the anthem. According to NY Daily News, Reid said, “I just wanted to show my support for him (Kaepernick), let him know he’s not the only person who feels what he feels.”
Whether he’s right or not is up to personal interpretation. The only thing certain is that Kaepernick has created conflict that won’t soon fade away.