SANTA CLARA –- Colin Kaepernick is still competing against Blaine Gabbert to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback and any off-field issues will not factor into the decision, coach Chip Kelly said Saturday.
Kaepernick took a seat on the 49ers’ bench on Friday night during the playing of the Star-Spangled banner at Levi’s Stadium.
He explained his reasoning behind his protest.
"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 Steve Wyche of NFL Media. "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."
Kelly confirmed that Kaepernick did the same thing prior to the game a week ago in Denver, when he was in street clothes. Kelly said Kaepernick did not discuss his actions before the Denver game.
“We recognize his right to express his feelings,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he would not attempt to discourage Kaepernick from sitting during the national anthem in the future.
”It’s not my right to tell him not to do something,” Kelly said.
The NFL, in a statement released Saturday, said, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”
Kelly said Kaepernick’s stance has no impact on his standing in the organization, and he’s unaware of any issues within the locker room.
“We haven’t gotten any feedback from any of our players about the situation,” Kelly said. “I’m sure some of them would be aware of it after reading the accounts today, but no one has expressed anything. We’re off today, but we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
When asked if he expects Kaepernick to be on the 49ers’ 53-man roster when the season begins, Kelly said, “He’s competing with Blaine to see who our starting quarterback is going to be.”
Gabbert appears to be the likely choice to emerge as the 49ers’ starting quarterback to open the regular season, but Kelly said he is not ready to announce any decision.
“We haven’t had any discussions in terms of starters right now,” Kelly said. “Our whole focus today was really making our cuts to 75.”
The 49ers pared down their 90-man roster on Saturday. The team sent cornerback Kenneth Acker to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional draft pick and placed wide receiver Eric Rogers on season-ending injured reserve.
The 49ers also trimmed nine players from their roster with the releases of wide receivers Jerome Simpson and DiAndre Campbell, running back Kendall Gaskins, defensive lineman Darren Lake, kicker John Lunsford, linebacker Wynton McManis, offensive linemen Blake Muir and Ian Silberman, and cornerback Cleveland Wallace.