SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in each of the team’s three preseason games and plans to continue to do so until he sees real change when it comes to racial oppression in the United States.
“Yes, I’ll continue to sit,” Kaepernick said. “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. 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, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
On Sunday afternoon, Kaepernick spent nearly 20 minutes addressing reporters for the first time since he was spotted sitting between two Gatorade jugs during the national anthem of Friday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
Clearly aware of the backlash he’s received since his stance became public, Kaepernick made it a point to clarify that he has nothing against the military.
“I do think that the talk has been more about me, more about I know a lot of people’s initial reactions thought it was bashing the military, which it wasn’t,” Kaepernick said. “That wasn’t my intention at all. I think now that we have those things cleared up, we can get to the root of what I was saying and really address those issues.”
During the extensive interview, Kaepernick covered a variety of other subjects ranging from his reasoning behind sitting to whether he fears for his safety on the road this year to the presidential election.
Kaepernick said his decision to make his stance has been a long time coming and was born of years of both witnessing and being a part of racial oppression.
“It’s something that I’ve seen, I’ve felt, wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally,” Kaepernick said. “And it is something that’s evolved. It’s something that 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. There are things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed, and they need to be.”
Asked to offer some specifics, Kaepernick cited police brutality in a number of cities that have resulted in the death of black men.
Kaepernick recounted a story of one of his college roommates moving out of their house and because he and his roommates were the only black people in the neighborhood, the police came and drew guns on them.
“I do think that the talk has been more about me, more about I know a lot of people’s initial reactions thought it was bashing the military, which it wasn’t. That wasn’t my intention at all. I think now that we have those things cleared up, we can get to the root of what I was saying and really address those issues.”
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick
“I have experienced this,” Kaepernick said. “People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here or a one-off case there. This has become habitual. This has become a habit. So this is something that needs to be addressed.”
Kaepernick said his decision to sit also wasn’t made spur of the moment. He cited conversations with other players and influential people, such as Dr. Harry Edwards, as taking place in the time before taking action.
Dr. Edwards, who was instrumental in the protest by U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, is a 49ers team consultant and shared a hug and brief conversation with Kaepernick before Sunday’s practice.
Kaepernick also addressed the team at a players’ only meeting that took place Sunday morning.
“They asked me to talk and just explain why I did what I did,” Kaepernick said. “And why I felt the way I felt. I had an open conversation with them. I told them why I felt that way and looked at things the way I do. A lot of it has to do with the history of the country and where we’re currently at. I opened it up to all my teammates. Come talk to me if you have any questions. If you want to understand what I’m thinking further, come talk to me. It shouldn’t be something that should be hidden. These conversations need to happen and can bring everybody closer.”
Kaepernick said he has no plans to try to get other players to join him in his protest, citing the attention that goes with making such a move.
“This isn’t something I’m going to ask other people to put their necks out for what I’m doing,” Kaepernick said. “If they agree with me and feel strongly about it then by all means I hope they stand with me. But I’m not going to go and try to recruit people and be like ‘Hey, come do this with me’ because I know the consequences that come with that and they need to make that decision for themselves.”
As for the timing of the protest, Kaepernick said he didn’t choose now simply because it’s an election year but also voiced his displeasure with the two presidential candidates.
“You have Hilary (Clinton), who has called black teens or black kids super predators,” Kaepernick said. “You have Donald Trump, who is openly racist. We have a presidential candidate (Clinton) who has deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me. If that was any other person, you’d be in prison. So what is this country really standing for?”
From a football perspective, Kaepernick said he wants the team focus to be on winning games but that there’s also a time to discuss social issues. Asked whether he thought he could be cut for taking this stance, Kaepernick didn’t seem concerned.
“I don’t know,” Kaepernick said. “But if I do, I know I did what’s right. And I can live with that at the end of the day.”
Kaepernick also said he has no concerns about potential backlash when he plays in road games this year.
“At the end of the day, if something happens, that’s only proving my point,” Kaepernick said.
As to where he goes from here, while Kaepernick continues to sit during the anthem, he says there are also plans to do more than symbolically protest.
“There are things that I have in the works right now that I’m working on to put together in the future and have come to fruition soon,” Kaepernick said. “Those are things that I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.”