Pro Athletes React to Colin Kaepernick Refusing to Stand for the National Anthem

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick is fighting for the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback job.

But that's not even close to the most important fight in his life right now.

The five-year veteran is the latest in a line of athletes speaking out against violence toward that African American community at the hands of police, but his method is more divisive—Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem at all three of his team's preseason games this year.

But the world didn't take notice until Friday night—now, while some are appalled by a perceived lack of respect for the nation's military, others are applauding Kapernick's standing up for what he believes, regardless of whether or not those same people agree with his stance.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," Kaepernick told's Steve Wyche. "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.”

In 1996, the NBA suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for one game for refusing to stand for the anthem, claiming the flga is a symbol of oppression.

It doesn't appear the NFL will do the same with the Niners quarterback.

“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem," the NFL said in a statement.

The team also defended Kaepernick's First Amendment right.

“The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony," the 49ers said in a 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 and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Detroit Lions wideout Anquan Boldin, a former teammate of Kaepernick's and former winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year which recognizes volunteer and charity work, also errs on the side of the constitution.

“I think a lot of people get bent out of shape about it,” Boldin said. “Even if you don’t agree with what someone does, you still have to respect their opinion and how they feel about something. You can agree or disagree with it but you still have to respect it. That’s the right that we have as Americans, and that’s the great part about being an American."

While he stands for the national anthem, Boldin respects Kaepernick's decision.

“I respect everybody’s opinion,” Boldin said. “Everybody has one. I’m sure he’s going to get flack for it, what he did, but that’s the great thing about being in America, you have that option.”

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, finds it interesting that many want athletes to be machines without opinions.

 The fan who believes that we should shut up and play… that means that you don’t want to hear us, you just want people to entertain you," Smith said. "That because you’ve decided to buy a ticket, that somehow the people that you watch are relegated to just a two-dimensional person without a soul, without feelings, without rights. Well that’s not the way that we approach it."

Many other athletes weighed in with a swath of varied opinions, from the disgusted, to the proud, to the respectfully disagreeing.


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