Colin Kaepernick, 49ers QB, Talks Childhood Struggle With Ethnicity — Is This Why He Didn’t Stand For The National Anthem?

Patricia Grannum

Colin Kaepernick isn’t a name you regularly see outside of news about the San Francisco 49ers. That was until the quarterback decided to sit through the national anthem at an exhibition game between the Green Bay Packers and the 49ers on Friday night. The move was an act of protest. Kaepernick would later tell NFL Media that it was in response to the way the United States treats black people and people of color.

“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 said in a post-game interview. “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.”

Kaepernick’s struggles with his ethnicity and racism date back to his childhood. It’s something he talked about in an interview with Mr Porter’s The Journal, a men’s fashion magazine published by the lifestyle brand.

Kaepernick, who was adopted by white parents when he was young, said that his parents never really made him feel like he was the odd one out because of his race. His parents allowed him to be himself, he said.

“I knew I was different to my parents and my older brother and sister,” the 28-year-old quarterback said in the interview. “I never felt that I was supposed to be white. Or black, either. My parents just wanted to let me be who I needed to be.”

But the same could not be said of the strangers who saw Kaepernick as a black boy with white parents and found that strange

“We used to go on these summer driving vacations and stay at motels,” he said. “And every year, in the lobby of every motel, the same thing always happened, and it only got worse as I got older and taller. It didn’t matter how close I stood to my family, somebody would walk up to me, a real nervous manager, and say: ‘Excuse me. Is there something I can help you with?'”

But although those awkward situations irked him, he said he did not let it cause him to lash out at people. This was due to the upbringing he got from his adoptive father, Kaepernick told The Journal.

“My dad, being a businessman, constantly talked to me about carrying myself in a certain way and treating people with respect,” Kaepernick said. “And I think that’s something that’s carried over throughout my life. It’s how I deal with certain situations.”

On a slightly more positive note, he also credits his fashion sense to his childhood struggles with identity and race. It made him want to always present himself as a role model in the African-American community, he said.

“My interest in fashion probably would have developed anyway,” Kaepernick added. “But all this stuff made me ask myself in a really focused way: ‘What do I represent?’ And you know what? My racial heritage is something I want people to be well aware of. I do want to be a representative of the African community, and I want to hold myself and dress myself in a way that reflects that. I want black kids to see me and think: ‘Okay, he’s carrying himself as a black man, and that’s how a black man should carry himself.'”

Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest probably won’t result in any official backlash that would jeopardize his position on the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, according to an article on the NFL’s website, the team put out an official statement saying Kaepernick was well within his rights to refuse to stand for the national anthem.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens,” the statement read. “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.”

San Francisco 49ers v St Louis Rams
Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest won’t get him suspended from the San Francisco 49ers. Chip Kelly is also OK with it. [Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images]
Kaepernick’s coach, Chip Kelly, echoed that sentiment saying that not standing for the “Star-Spangled Banner” is part of the quarterback’s rights as a citizen of the United States. “It’s not my right to tell him not to do something,” Kelly said.

Colin Kaepernick isn’t the first black sports star to use their media power to protest what they see as the unfair treatment of black people in the United States, as the article on the NFL website notes. Basketball players Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony have used their voices to draw attention to the issue among others.

[Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images]