When the full slate of NFL games begins this weekend, Colin Kaepernick may find that he has more support for his national anthem protest than he may have anticipated, both from fellow players and fans.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who has chosen to remain seated for the anthem during preseason games, is protesting to raise awareness of violence against people of color and at least two of his fellow NFL players will be joining him. Jeremy Lane, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback, sat for the anthem during the preseason finale and plans to do so when the team opens against the Miami Dolphins. Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s 49ers teammate, also plans to sit.
Lane said he discussed his protest with Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who he said told him only to “be smart.” He went on to say that he was “just piggybacking what [Kaepernick] said, for the justice” and added that Kaepernick had reached out to him “and just told me thank you for standing behind him.”
Lane was uncertain whether any of his teammates would join the protest during the 4:05 p.m. EDT game in Seattle on Sunday. “I don’t want to put no pressure on no one,” Lane said (via the Seattle Times). “I’m doing it for me.”
Lane told reporters that he had received no negative reaction from fans and, although some 49ers fans initially burned Kaepernick’s jersey, sales of his No. 7 shirt have spiked since his protest. Prices on his jersey were slashed last fall as Kaepernick’s football fortunes dropped and his stock rose so quickly after the protest that prices were $5 in some stores.
Kaepernick now has the best-selling jersey on the 49ers’ website and third overall in the NFL, ESPN reported Monday. Before his protest, his jersey ranked sixth on the team. Now, only the jerseys of Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are selling better.
Not bad for a guy who will start the season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert.
Kaepernick has said he will continue his protest, which, in a fortuitous bit of scheduling that has to please NFL officials, will come in the final game of Week 1, in the 10:20 p.m. EDT game Monday against the Los Angeles Rams.
On Monday, President Barack Obama offered his opinion on Kaepernick’s protest, noting the “long history” of athletes taking a stand on social issues.
“There are a lot of ways you can do it,” Obama said after the G-20 summit in China. “As a general matter when it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us – that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are. But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
Kaepernick’s protest spread to soccer over the weekend, with U.S. women’s national team member Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem before her pro game with the Seattle Reign.
“The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem,” she said.
“I am disgusted with the way [Kaepernick] has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this,” Rapinoe told espnW’s Julie Foudy. “It is overtly racist. ‘Stay in your place, black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated.”