Colin Kaepernick on his anthem protest, the police, the election, and much, much more: “This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice”
SANTA CLARA–Colin Kaepernick showed up at his locker, walked through a horde of reporters and cameras, and was ready to answer every single question about his decision to sit for the national anthems before games.
He was passionate, that’s for sure. He spoke for more than 18 minutes and obviously was more than eager to address this issue with every piece of thought that led to it.
This will continue to be incredibly controversial. But you can’t say he ducked anything.
Here’s the transcript…
—COLIN KAEPERNICK gaggle transcript/
-Q: What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the goal?
-KAEPERNICK: I mean, ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, and that’s something that needs to change.
That’s something that–this country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.
-Q: Is this something that has evolved in your mind? How has it progressed to where you make a stand like this?
-KAEPERNICK: It’s something that I’ve seen, I’ve felt. Wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally.
And it is something that’s evolved. It’s something that as I’ve gained more knowledge about what’s gone on in this country in the past, what’s going on currently, these aren’t new situations.
This isn’t new ground. These are things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed. And they need to be.
-Q: Will you continue to sit?
-KAEPERNICK: Yes. I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent in this country–is representing the way that it’s supposed to–I’ll stand.
-Q: What would you like to see changed?
-KAEPERNICK: There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality, there’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable.
The cops are getting paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.
-Q: So many people see the flag as a symbol of the military. How do you view that? What do you say to those people?
-KAEPERNICK: I have great respect for men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country.
They fight for freedom. They fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening.
People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening.
I’ve seen videos. I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
-Q: Do you personally feel oppressed?
-KAEPERNICK: There have been situations where I feel like I’ve been ill-treated, yes. But this stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way.
This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change.
So I’m in a position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.
-Q: Is this the first year you haven’t stood for the anthem?
-KAEPERNICK: This year’s the first year that I’ve done this.
-Q: You’ve done it all the preseason this year?
-Q: This is just the first time it was noticed?
-Q: How have your teammates responded today?
-KAEPERNICK: The support I’ve got from my teammates has been great. I think a lot of my teammates come from areas where this might be a situation–their families might be put in this situation.
It’s something that I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say I really respect you for what you’re doing and what you’re standing for.
So to me that’s something that I know when I’m doing what’s right and I know other people see what I’m doing is right… is something that we have come together, we have to unite, we have to unify and make a change.
-Q: What do you say to the people who like what you’re saying but you’re going about it the wrong way?
-KAEPERNICK: I don’t understand how it’s the wrong way. To me, this is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country.
Going back to the military thing, it’s a freedom that men and women that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by the contributions they have made.
I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way. This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation is and then really affect change.
-Q: Are you almost relieved that people noticed it this time and you can answer these questions after two previous games when nobody noticed?
-KAEPERNICK: It wasn’t something that I really planned as far as it blowing up. It was something that I personally decided I just can’t stand for what this represents right now. It’s not right.
The fact that it has blown up like this I think is a good thing. It brings awareness. Everybody knows what’s going on and this sheds more light on it.
Now I think people are really talking about it, having conversations about how to make change, what’s really going on in this country and we can move forward.
-Q: Are you concerned that this is seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement?
-KAEPERNICK: What’s that?
-Q: It can be seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement.
-KAEPERNICK: As far as what? I don’t really understand what you’re trying to get at.
-Q: You say people are getting murdered by police. You seem to indict all of police.
-KAEPERNICK: There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it. And their government officials. They’re put in place by the government so that’s something that this country has to change.
There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher.
You have people that practice law and our lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist.
That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.
-Q: Do you plan on doing more things on this issue beyond sitting for the anthem?
-KAEPERNICK: Yeah, most definitely. There are things I have in the works right now, that I’m working on to put together in the future and have come to fruition soon.
Those are things I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.
-Q: Any concern about the timing of this, right before the season, and it being a distraction?
-KAEPERNICK: No, I don’t see it as a distraction. I think it’s something that can unify this team, it’s something that can unify this country.
You know, if we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people. If we have these conversations, there’s a better understanding where both sides are coming from.
And if we reach common ground and can understand what everybody’s going through, we can really affect change and make sure that everybody’s treated equally and has the same freedom.
-Q: Has anybody from the league or team told you to tone it down?
-KAEPERNICK: No, no one’s tried to quiet me. And to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about. I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it.
It’s not… this isn’t for a look, this isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice and this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful, to provide for their families and not live in poor circumstances.
-Q: Have you ever been pulled over unjustly or had a bad experience in that regard?
-KAEPERNICK: Yes. Multiple times.
I mean, I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of a house in college and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and all of us had guns drawn on us. I mean, came in the house without knocking, guns drawn, on one of my teammates and roommates.
So I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here, a one-off case there.
This has become habitual, it’s become a habit. It’s something that needs to be addressed.
-Q: You’re the only player in the NFL that has taken this stand. Why do you think you’re the only one?
-KAEPERNICK: I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation, they’re scared they might lose their job or they might not get the endorsements, they might not be treated the same way.
And those are things I’m prepared to handle and those are things that, you know, other people might not be ready for.
It’s just a matter of where you’re at in your life, where your mind’s at.
At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being in the NFL and making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that…
But I can’t look in the mirror and see other people dying in the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and say, you know what, I can live with myself. Because I can’t if I just watch.
-Q: Do you think you might get cut for this?
-KAEPERNICK: I don’t know. But if I do, I know I did what’s right and I can live with that at the end of the day.
-Q: Does this in any way reflect your relationship with the 49ers or with the NFL?
-KAEPERNICK: No, this is about the way people have been treated by this country.
-Q: When you addressed the team, how long did you talk? What was the tone of it?
-KAEPERNICK: It was a conversation–they asked me to talk and just explain why I did what I did and why I felt the way I felt.
That’s something–I had an open conversation with them. I told them why I felt that way and why I looked at things the way I do. A lot of it has to do with the history of the country and where we’re currently at.
And I opened it up to all my teammates, come talk to me if you have any questions. If you want to understand what I’m thinking further, come talk to me.
This isn’t something that should be hidden and shouldn’t be talked about. These conversations need to happen and I think it’s something that can bring everybody closer.
-Q: Were there guys in there who told you they opposed what you’re doing?
-KAEPERNICK: There were… I’ve had people say, I want to understand further, let’s talk. So I’ve had those conversations and will continue to have them with my teammates.
But it’s something that the knowledge of what’s happened in this country and is currently happening is something that I think everybody needs to know.
When you have the knowledge of those things, then you can make an educated decision on what you really feel and what you want to stand for.
-Q: Have politicians or others outside the sports world reached out to you?
-KAEPERNICK: I’ve had a few people reach out. I mean, quite a few, actually, saying you know, ‘We really support you, we’re proud of you for taking that stand, we respect what you’re doing, we know a lot’s going to come with it, but we’re behind you.’
And that means a lot. That means that I’m not the only one that feels that way, and I’m not the only one that sees things this way.
-Q: Is this team talking more about trying to win a Super Bowl today or talking about this?
-KAEPERNICK: No, we’re focused on football while we’re in meetings, while we’re on the field. That’s what our focus is.
But in our free time, we have conversations about this, and that’s not something that we should be ashamed about or shy away from. We talk about football, we handle our business there, but there’s also a social responsibility that we have to be educated on these things and talk about these things.
-Q: Did you consider getting teammates to join you in this?
-KAEPERNICK: This isn’t something I’m going to ask other people to put their necks out for what I’m doing. If they agree with me and feel strongly about it, then by all means I hope they stand with me.
But I’m not going to go and try to recruit people and make sure, like, ‘Hey, come do this with me.’ Because I know the consequences that come with that and they need to make that decision for themselves.
-Q: Did you seek counsel on this?
-KAEPERNICK: This is a conversation I’ve had with a lot of people a lot of times over a long period of time. So it wasn’t something that I planned on having a conversation about a particular time. It just so happened it was the other night that people realized it and talked about it.
-Q: Are you concerned that so much of the talk is only about you and not the issues?
-KAEPERNICK: I do think that the talk has been more about me, more… I know a lot of people’s initial reactions, thought it was bashing the military, which it wasn’t. That wasn’t my intention at all.
I think now that we have those things cleared up, we can get to the root of what I was saying and really address those issues.
-Q: Do you know of other players who feel the same way but might not be ready to step forward publicly?
-KAEPERNICK: Yeah, I know there’s other players that feel the same way. I’ve had players reach out to me. You know, once again, it’s not something I’m going to ask them to put their necks out.
I know the consequences that come along with my decision and if they feel strongly about it and want to stand with me, then I hope they do. If it’s something they’re not ready for, that’s what the conversations are for and they can make that decision when they’re ready or if they’re ready.
-Q: Do you feel you’ll be safe in some of the road cities you’ll travel to? And will you bring extra precautions?
-KAEPERNICK: Not really too concerned about that. At the end of the day, if something happens, that’s only proving my point.
-Q: Harry Edwards has experience with public stances and you talked to him before practice today. Is he someone you consulted with at any point on this?
-KAEPERNICK: Once again, it wasn’t something I consulted anybody on. It was a conversation I had when somebody asked me about.
Dr. Edwards is a good friend; he’s someone I talk to a lot and run a lot of things by and have a lot of conversations with. And we have a lot of similar views.
-Q: Does the fact that this is an election year have anything to do with the timing?
-KAEPERNICK: Once again, it wasn’t a timing thing. It wasn’t something that was planned.
But I think the two presidential candidates that we currently have also represent the issue that we have in this country right now.
-Q: Do you want to expound on that?
-KAEPERNICK: I mean, you have Hillary who’s called black teens or black kids super-predators.
You have Donald Trump who’s openly racist.
I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison.
So what is this country really standing for?
-Q: But this is a country that has elected a black man to the presidency, twice. Can you understand when people ask why there’s this outrage when the country has elected a black president, and sacrificed a lot of things for freedom?
-KAEPERNICK: It has elected a black president. But there are also things–a lot of things–that haven’t changed. There are a lot of issues that still haven’t been addressed.
And that’s something over an eight-year term, there’s a lot of those things that are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.
-Q: What would be a success for you on this just for the short term?
-KAEPERNICK: You know, that’s a tough question, because there’s a lot of things that need to change, a lot of different issues that need to be addressed.
That’s something that… it’s really hard to lock down one specific thing that needs to change currently.