Backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers still neglected to stand during the national anthem in the team's week 1 home opener against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, and teammate Eric Reid joined him once more.
“I don't want to kneel forever, I think there are major changes we can do that are reasonable, speaking with many lawyers and activists, trying to get it all organized and in place,” said Kaepernick, who previously stated he was refusing to stand for the national anthem until he sees improved race relations in the United States.
All eyes were on Reid and Kaepernick who took a knee for the second game in a row, but some of those eyes diverted to teammates Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold, who held their right fists up as well.
Neither of the Rams sat or took a knee during the anthem but defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Kenny Britt also held up fists.
“It's been amazing, I think people that know this issue is going on, they just didn't know how to approach it or speak about it but now that the conversation is there, they support it,” he continued. “And we are trying to bring awareness and anything to help the issue.”
Along with the national controversy over Kaepernick and his kneeling during the national anthem, the 49ers also captured a 28-0 win and were the only team to shutout the opposition in the first week of the new season.
Kap stayed true to his word and on Sunday's official kickoff weekend, he also saw support from around the National Football League.
Several teams, including the Chiefs and Seahawks, saw their players link arms during the anthem on Sunday.
“This issue is beyond the NFL, it's about people, about humanity, it's about racial discrimination and racial profiling and now people are speaking out about and saying they don't agree,” said Kaepernick.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem, as part of a protest that was magnified later in the day when four Miami Dolphins took a knee on the sideline with hands on their hearts while “The Star Spangled Banner” played in Seattle.
Peters' gesture was also a tribute of sorts to U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter race at the 1968 Olympics. Both then appeared on the medal stands with raised, black-gloved fists throughout the U.S. national anthem in what they called a "human rights salute."
"He spoke up about something he felt he needed to speak up about," Peters said last week about Kaepernick. "I salute him for that. I come from a majority black community from Oakland... so the struggle, I've seen it. I still have family in the struggle. All I'm saying is we want to educate those, the youth that's coming up."
Miami's four players who chose to sit, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Jelani Jenkins, registered their protest shortly before kickoff. All four of them stood while President Barack Obama's message played regarding the anniversary of 9/11 prior to taking a knee, but then all of them stood at the end.
"If it's about the knee that people are upset about, every Sunday people of faith take a knee to give thanks to their lord and savior, whatever faith or religion that they are," said Foster. "It's not about a knee, it's not about the (symbolism), it's about the message. They say it's not the time to do this, but when is the time?"
"I chose to get involved to see if I could create change, raise awareness. And I want to make it clear that there is no disrespect to the military or to police officers —I'm not about that. I love everyone," said Miami's Jenkins, one of the Dolphins to kneel. "I would like to keep moving forward in the right direction with everybody — equal rights, equal opportunity. From my position, it doesn't seem that it's happening. That's why I took a stand."
Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who was a teammate of Kaepernick's in college at University of Nevada-Reno, also took a knee during the anthem on Thursday night and lost endorsements over his decision.
“To me it's embarrassing for the companies who let such a high character person go because they just don't believe it and I just don't understand,” said Kaepernick.
Just last week, the 49ers chief executive officer Jed York, pledged $1 million from the team's charitable foundation to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation, organizations with goals to assist in some of the areas Kaepernick is attempting to bring awareness.
“It shows what people mean to him and how much he truly cares,” Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick previously pledged the first $1 million he makes this season to help communities in need and said that he will do the same with proceeds from his jersey sales.
“I'd just say that human rights is a philosophy that everybody should hold dear,” York said. “It's not easy to make a stand and to do something that's not popular—that's everybody—and I think that's what Colin has done, but I think he's done it in a respectful way. He's trying to bring a voice to people that he doesn't feel have one, and I think we want to do the same thing and try to help.”
“I feel like change is coming,” said Kaepernick. “There is enough people talking about it that believe and see the injustice and they want to be part of the change and help these people and give them a better chance to thrive. This movement isn't for me, I didn't do it because of me, it's just not right.”
In Sunday's night game, New England's Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty both held up their right arms.
Kaepernick also received a fair share of boos from the crowd on Monday when he went out on the field for the team's final drive with 2:33 left in the game. He handed the ball off three straight times before the 49ers punted the ball with about half a minute left.
“What really pissed me off was when Kap was getting snaps at the end of the game and the crowd was booing,” said Harold. “I'm not throwing shots at our fans. It's not about that. Liberty and justice for all. Just because this man is standing up for something he believes in doesn't give you the right to boo him. I just don't understand it, man. I really don't.”
The 49ers will have a short week as their next game will be on the road at Carolina against the Panthers at 10 a.m. Sunday.