SAN DIEGO –- In a second-quarter break when military veterans in the stands were honored, Colin Kaepernick stood and applauded.
Less than an hour earlier, Kaepernick took a knee among his teammates and staff members on the 49ers’ sideline. Safety Eric Reid joined him in the protest that Kaepernick said is against police brutality and America’s oppression of minorities.
Kaepernick was booed loudly whenever he took the field and when the 49ers broke the huddle on Thursday. But he appeared to maintain his poise and played well during the three possessions he played in the first half.
Shortly after the playing of the national anthem, Kaepernick led the 49ers down the field on a 16-play, 85-yard touchdown drive behind the team's backup offensive line. Kaepernick completed six of eight attempts for 58 yards. He also carried twice for 30 yards. Running back DuJuan Harris scored on a 1-yard run.
In the first half, Kaepernick completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 103 yards for a passer rating of He also rushed for 38 yards on four attempts. The 49ers led 9-7 at halftime after Phil Dawson's 32-yard field goal on the final play.
Kaepernick did not play in the second half. Rookie Jeff Driskel took over at the beginning of the third quarter. His first pass attempt was intercepted.
Blaine Gabbert, the 49ers’ likely starting quarterback, did not suit up for the game. Coach Chip Kelly has yet to name a starter, and he said this week he wanted both quarterbacks to exit the exhibition season with a similar number of snaps.
“It’s just because right now he’s played 43 snaps, so we feel like the bulk of work for what he needs to do we’ve got a good understanding of where Blaine is,” Kelly said. “And, unfortunately, because of Colin’s injury and missing those first two preseason games, he’s only got 13 snaps.”
Kaepernick did not suit up for the 49ers’ first two exhibition games due to a arm fatigue after the team’s first nine practices of training camp.
Although Kaepernick said his protest has nothing to do with the military, many drew that immediate connection between the American flag and service men and women.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said on Sunday when he explained his stance during an 18 1/2 –minute session with reporters. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That's not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That's something that's not happening.
“I've seen videos, I've seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That's not right.”
The Chargers on Thursday night held their 28th annual Salute to the Military with pregame, halftime and in-game tributes to current and retired military personnel. Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell from the U.S. Navy performed the national anthem while 240 sailors, marines and soldiers held a large U.S. flag on the field.
Green Beret Nate Boyer, who spent last year in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper, was a guest of Colin Kaepernick’s on the sideline before the game. Boyer and Kaepernick were side-by-side and talking just moments prior to Kaepernick and Reid taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Boyer pinned an open letter of support for Kaepernick this week. Boyer, whose hometown is Dublin, attended Valley Christian High School.
“There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything,” Boyer wrote. “So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind.
”I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying … De Oppresso Liber (to free from oppression).”