NFL player continues boycotting US anthem for black Americans’ plight

2016-09-02 19:06

San Diego – San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick vowed to maintain his boycott of the US national anthem on Thursday after being roundly booed for once again refusing to stand during a rendition of the song.

Kaepernick has triggered furious debate in the United States for his protest of "The Star Spangled Banner" which he hopes will draw attention to the plight of black people in America.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers speaks to media during a press conference. (Harry How/Getty Images North America/AFP)

The 28-year-old crouched on one knee during the anthem on Thursday as the 49ers faced the San Diego Chargers at the Qualcomm Stadium in Southern California.

His latest protest, which drew support from teammate Eric Reid, who also knelt, came on a night when the Chargers honoured US military personnel in a "Salute to the Military".

After a pre-match ceremony loaded with military pageantry – 240 sailors, Marines and soldiers presented a US flag while the anthem was sung by a Navy petty officer – Kaepernick was booed relentlessly every time he took to the field.

A banner in the crowd read: "You're an American. Act like one."

However, the jeering did little to deter Kaepernick, who impressed during two quarters, leading his team on a 16-play opening drive for an early touchdown to put the 49ers ahead.

Kaepernick's protest has divided opinion, with many decrying his actions as disrespectful or unpatriotic.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump described Kaepernick's anthem boycott as a "terrible thing," suggesting the player should move to another country.

'I love America'

Speaking after the game, Kaepernick brushed off the charges of not being patriotic.

"I'm not anti-American, I love America, I love people. That's why I'm doing this. I want to help make things better," he told reporters.

"And I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from."

Kaepernick's stance has won applause from veteran civil rights campaigners and sporting icons including Tommie Smith, the sprinter who was ostracised for his clenched fist salute alongside John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

Military veterans have also rallied to his cause, with many pledging support on Twitter under a #VeteransforKaepernick hashtag.

Citing the high rates of suicide amongst US military veterans, Kaepernick added: "This country will let those vets go and fight the war for them, but when they come back they won't do anything to try to help them.

"That's another issue. These issues need to be addressed."

Kaepernick meanwhile said he was not sure when he may call time on his protest, but said he had been inspired by messages of support urging him to press ahead.

"As far as how long this goes, I'm not sure," he said. "I want to be able to effect change and I think there are a lot of other people that want to do that as well.

"I think there are conversations happening not only in NFL locker rooms, but around the country. I've had friends that aren't on football teams say 'I respect what you're doing, I support you.'"

"I've had more conversations about human rights and oppression and things that need to change in the past week than I've had in my entire life," he added. "The fact that those conversations are happening is a start."

'Blatantly racist'

Kaepernick had stoked fresh controversy earlier on Thursday after it emerged he had worn socks during training that depicted cartoon pigs wearing police hats, drawing condemnation from the head of the National Association of Police Organisations.

However, Kaepernick said he had no regrets about criticising police officers after a string of high-profile cases involving the deaths of black men, often unarmed.

"We have cops that are murdering people. We have cops in the [San Francisco Police Department] that are blatantly racist," he said. "And those issues need to be addressed. I have uncles and friends that are cops and I have great respect for them.

"They genuinely want to help and protect people, but that's not the case with all cops," he added.

"The cops that are racist and murdering people are putting other cops in danger."

Asked later what he hoped to achieve with his actions, he replied: "The dream result would be equality. Justice for everybody.

"This is something about human rights," he added. "It's about people. It's not about anything other than that. Some people aren't given the same rights or opportunities as others. And that's really what the issue is."

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