Colin Kaepernick's Anthem Protest Sparks Social Media Debate Among Athletes

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Colin Kaepernick

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said the San Francisco 49ers quarterback about his refusing to stand for the national anthem.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the U.S. oppresses African-Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team's bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said Kaepernick. "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."

The 49ers issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick's stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem.

"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony," the team stated. "It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."

The NFL also said in a statement: "Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem."

Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents. He has been outspoken on his Twitter account on civil rights issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The quarterback said he is not worried about any potential fallout from his protest.

"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," he told NFL Media. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

Kaepernick's agent did not immediately return a request for comment.

Many athletes took to social media on Saturday to debate both sides of the issue, both praising his use of freedom of speech and criticizing the manner in which he is doing so.

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