At least two more NFL players joined San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in refusing to stand for the national anthem during games this week.
Fellow 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who plays safety, also refused to stand for the anthem during Thursday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, according to ESPN.
Both Kaepernick and Reid took a knee as the “The Star Spangled Banner” played. ESPN suggested that taking a knee rather than remaining seated, as Kaepernick had done at a previous game, may have been a compromise Kaepernick made to show respect to those who have been offended by his protest. The decision to kneel came after Kaepernick met with Reid and Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret and NFL long-snapper hopeful, for roughly 90 minutes at the hotel the 49ers stayed at for Thursday’s game, according to ESPN.
A third player, Seattle Seahawks corner back Jeremy Lane, also refused to stand during the national anthem before Thursday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders, according to USA Today.
Monday The Hill reported that Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Myke Tavarres had changed his mind about joining Kaepernick in protesting the anthem after his agent advised him against it.
— The Young Turks (@TheYoungTurks) September 2, 2016
Kaepernick first protested the national anthem during an August 26 game against the Green Bay Packers.
“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 NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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 protest met with a mixed response from commentators, fans, and athletes. Many accused him of being unpatriotic or anti-American. At least one fan burned a Kaepernick jersey.
Reuters published a roundup of current and former NFL players’ responses to the incident. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, New Orleans’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Jerry Rice, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who won three Super Bowl championships playing for the 49ers, all criticized Kaepernick or questioned his “method” of protest.
“If you want to make a point or take a stand, go straight after the root of that cause,” Ward said in an Instagram post typical of the backlash against Kaepernick. “Don’t disrespect the whole country or the organization that’s paying you millions of dollars.”
Kaepernick Once Again Takes a Stand – By Sitting Down https://t.co/jGRqp6hDXM
— Ring of Fire Radio (@ringoffireradio) September 2, 2016
However, not everyone has been critical of Kaepernick.
“I think Pandora’s box is open,” NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown said on NFL Total Access.“I’m very happy that it is.”
He added that he supports Kaepernick’s stance, according to Reuters.
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also fully endorsed Kaepernick’s protest in a Washington Post editorial titled “Insulting Colin Kaepernick says more about our patriotism than his.”
“Patriotism isn’t just getting teary-eyed on the Fourth of July or choked up at war memorials. It’s supporting what the Fourth of July celebrates and what those war memorials commemorate: the U.S. Constitution’s insistence that all people should have the same rights and opportunities and that it is the obligation of the government to make that happen. When the government fails in those obligations, it is the responsibility of patriots to speak up and remind them of their duty.”
Kaepernick has repeatedly insisted that his protest is absolutely not unpatriotic or anti-American.
“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” ESPN quoted Kaepernick as saying Thursday night.
“I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.”
After being loudly booed by fans at Thursday’s game Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to groups affected by the racial inequality and police brutality he hopes to spotlight with his protests, according to a separate report from USA Today.
The NFL and the 49ers have remained neutral for the most part, saying that while players are encouraged to stand for the anthem there is no actual policy that requires them to do so.
“It’s a totally individual decision,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Lane refused to stand, according to USA Today. “I’m proud of the progress we’re making in the conversation.”
Lane made it clear that his support for Kaepernick and protesting the issues he is raising was not a one time thing.
“It’s something I plan to keep on doing until justice is being served,” USA Today quoted Lane as telling reporters after the game.
[Photo by Harry How/Getty Image]