SANTA CLARA – Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem during the 49ers’ three exhibition games is not meant as any statement about the United States military, he said.
On Sunday, a group of team leaders addressed the 49ers in a players-only meeting. Then, Kaepernick rose in front of the group to explain the reasoning behind his protest.
Later, Kaepernick spent more than 18 minutes answering questions from the media, as he expounded on the stance he has taken to bring attention to civil rights issues.
“I have great respect for men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. They fight for freedom. They fight for the people. They fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening.
“People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, as far as giving freedom and justice and liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women who have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for – and been murdered by the country they fought for. On our land. That’s not right.”
Kaepernick said he will continue to sit during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in order to bring more attention to the problems facing this country.
“Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” he said. “There are a lot of things going on that are unjust and people aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something this country stand for freedom, liberty, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.
“It’s something I’ve seen, I’ve felt, wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally. And it is something that’s evolved. It’s something, as I’ve gained more knowledge about what’s gone on in this country in the past, what’s going on currently, these aren’t new situations. This isn’t new ground. It’s things that have gone on in this country for years and years, and have never been addressed, and they need to be.”
Kaepernick said he has felt this way for some time. But he said he wanted to educate himself and feel secure in his beliefs before taking such a public stance. He said he did not stand for the playing of the national anthem before any of the 49ers’ exhibition games this summer. He did not play in the 49ers’ first two games. His protest became public after remaining seated during the national anthem at the 49ers’ game Friday night at Levi’s Stadium.
“I’ll continue to sit. I’ll continue to stand with the people who are being oppressed,” Keapernick said. “To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick spoke specifically about incidents in which police have killed individuals who did not pose a threat.
“There is police brutality,” he said. “People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part, and they’re government officials. They’re put in place by the government. That’s something this country has to change. There are things that we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher.”
Kaepernick is guaranteed to earn at least $12.3 million this season as part of a $114 million contract he signed in June 2014. But Kaepernick said this is not about him.
“There’ve been situations where I feel like I’ve been ill-treated, yes,” Kaepernick said, “but this stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people who don’t have a voice. People who don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change. So I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
Kaepernick said he feels secure about his belief that he is handling his protest in an appropriate fashion.
“I don’t understand how it’s the wrong way,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. Going back to the military thing, it’s a freedom that men and women who have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by the contributions they have made. So I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way. This is something that has to be said. It has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention. And when that’s done, people can realize what the situation is and really affect change.”