SAN DIEGO, California — Colin Kaepernick continued his stance of not standing during the national anthem before Thursday’s preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.
The sixth-year 49ers quarterback again protested against racism in the United States as he took a knee while Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell from the US Navy sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Another man, dressed in a black 49ers shirt, knelt beside Kaepernick. Former Green Beret Nate Boyer, a guest of Kaepernick, stood to the quarterback’s left with his right hand over his heart.
Fans in the sparse crowd chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” after Powell concluded. Players around Kaepernick went up to him and shook their starting quarterback’s hand. The other man who knelt, identified in local media reports as safety Eric Reid, gave Kaepernick a hug.
When Kaepernick lined up to begin the game, the booing resumed. The crowd booed before every snap of 16 plays. Kaepernick led the team to a touchdown on an 85-yard drive.
There were some supporters in the crowd. Kaepernick signed some autographs before San Francisco’s preseason game and when No. 7 in a 49ers jersey loped out for warmups, many people in red 49ers jerseys clapped and cheered.
But most of the fans here on the night of the Chargers’ 28th Annual Salute to the Military booed.
The quarterback, who is biracial, has said he would again refuse to stand during the song because he will not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Further north, photographs showed Seattle Seahawks player Jeremy Lane sitting during the national anthem at the Seahawks-Raiders game. But there has been no word as to whether it deliberate act of protest.
The quarterback told the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday that he doesn’t fear for his safety.
“No, because if something happened, you’d be proving my point,” Kaepernick said, according to the report. He later said, “I knew what I was walking into. That’s why it’s a sacrifice.”
Kaepernick addresses socks
There’s a new wrinkle to the Kaepernick saga. Photos have surfaced on social media of him wearing socks that depict pigs in police hats.
According to USA Today, Kaepernick wore the socks as early as August 10. USA Today also reports that the head of a national police organization ripped Kaepernick for the socks, saying the quarterback is “dishonoring police officers with what he’s wearing on the field.”
“It doesn’t seem like he’s thought through or bothered to educate himself about the way (law enforcement officers) are out there trying to do a very difficult job and the vast majority of the time get the job done right,” said Bill Johnson, who is the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.
Kaepernick addressed the socks in an Instagram post on Thursday afternoon, explaining that he began wearing them before he took a public stance on the anthem.
“I wore those socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust.” Kaepernick said. “I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before those socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately.”
Kaepernick didn’t wear the socks during the game.
Chargers to celebrate the military
As was previously scheduled, the Chargers were celebrating their annual salute to the military Thursday, paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of current and retired military personnel who live and work in San Diego.
According to a statement from the team, 240 sailors, Marines and soldiers presented a US Super Flag and service emblems from all branches of service during the national anthem.
At halftime the Chargers recognized six Vietnam War veterans as a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the war. Wounded warriors were also featured as special guests and a patriotic fireworks show wrapped up halftime.
Powell returned to the field at the start of the third quarter to sing “God Bless America.”
Amid the controversy over Kaepernick’s protest, some members of the military and veterans have taken to social media using the hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick in support.
Sunny Anderson, Food Network personality and a veteran, tweeted: “I took an oath & served so players on a team I don’t even like could have freedom of speech.”
‘It’s his right as a citizen’
On Tuesday, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly said that he will rest quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is the presumptive favorite to be named the starter for Week 1. Kaepernick has had an extended layoff while recovering from surgery in November on his non-throwing shoulder.
“Unfortunately because of Colin’s injury and missing those first two preseason games, he’s only got 13 snaps,” Kelly said. “So we’ve got to move forward and see if we can get him some more snaps here.”
Kelly said Tuesday he hopes to name a starter sometime after the Chargers game. He also said that Kaepernick is one of the best two quarterbacks on the roster.
“My dealings with Colin since April is when he’s here, he’s all about ball and he’s been great with that,” Kelly said. “So, that’s what I deal with, and that’s how we interact, and he’s been great. You guys watch him. When he’s not in, he’s mirroring the quarterback. He’s getting as many mental reps as he can. He obviously had a setback in camp because of the shoulder, but from a football standpoint, he’s been excellent.”
As for the quarterback’s stance on the national anthem, Kelly said he hasn’t asked Kaepernick about it.
“No, and it’s his right as a citizen,” Kelly said.
The complexity of the situation was not lost on those tailgating before Thursday’s game.
A 49ers fan at Thursday’s game told CNN “He’s got the right to do what he wants as an American. I just fell that as an American we should respect our country and our flag. There are other ways for him to do it, so I have mixed emotion and mixed feelings about it.”
Meanwhile, a Chargers fan said “It’s sad for all the military people who have given their lives, and who are thinking of giving their lives for our freedom, for his right to do that and to disrespect the flag and everything that it stands for, but then again, that’s what they fought for so he would have his right.”