San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game Friday out of protest against America's treatment of "black people and people of color."
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Kaepernick told NFL media he made his own decision to protest the playing of the anthem during the game against the Green Bay Packers, saying he felt an obligation to stand with "people that are oppressed."
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said. "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, who was making his return from injury Friday, maintains an active presence on social media and frequently retweets articles focused on the subject of police violence.
"I am not looking for approval," he added. "I have to stand up for people that are oppressed."
The 49ers issued a statement before Kaepernick's comments to NFL media were published, saying: "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. 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."
The NFL released a statement on Kaepernick's decision not to stand, saying: "Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem."
ABC News has reached out to Kaepernick for comment.
This is not the first time an American athlete has weighed into the debate around racial oppression in America.
Following the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in July, which were captured on video and spurred large protests across the country, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony reached out to fellow athletes on social media, urging them to “step up and take charge” of the political environment.
“These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge,” Anthony wrote in an Instagram post that featured an image from 1967 of top black athletes, including Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, holding a news conference in support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.
“Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or [who’s] going to look at us crazy,” Anthony wrote.
First off let me start off by saying " All Praise Due To The Most High." Secondly, I'm all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I'll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn't change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn't work. We tried that. I've tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn't work. We've all tried that. That didn't work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don't have a solution, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people don't have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can't worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o