San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not stand for the playing of the national anthem before his team’s preseason game Friday against the Green Bay Packers.
After the game, he told NFL Media in an exclusive interview that he is "not going to stand up 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,” he told NFL Media. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
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Steve Wyche, the NFL reporter who broke the story, said Saturday that Kaepernick has been looking for a moment to take a stand for a few months.
"He wanted to find a way to make a point," Wyche said. "This, as controversial as it is, is the way he felt he needed to take a stand."
The 49ers issued a statement after the game, saying that it is Kaepernick’s prerogative to stand or sit during the anthem.
"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony," the 49ers said in the statement. "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."
The NFL offered its own statement on Saturday.
"Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem," the NFL stated, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
Kaepernick, who has used his Twitter account recently to retweet accounts aimed at denouncing white supremacy and racial inequality, also told NFL Media that he is "not looking for approval."
"I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right," he told NFL Media.
Wyche said that this wasn't the first time this preseason that Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem, but now that the 28-year-old quarterback has captured national attention, he is ready to face any potential repercussions.
"He said he's got the spine and the backbone to deal with whatever comes to face him," Wyche said.
San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Chip Kelly said that Friday night's incident will have no impact on the quarterback's football future.
Justin Pugh, a lineman for the New York Giants, and other NFL players tweeted their opinions on Kaepernick's decision not to stand.