San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt with his arms folded during the performance of the U.S. national anthem during a pre-season game in San Diego on Thursday, continuing his protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Kaepernick, 28, has pledged to continue sitting during the performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” before National Football League games, a move that has been both criticized and cheered by commentators.
He was met by heavy boos from the crowd during pre-game warm-ups at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, which is home to U.S. Navy and Marine bases.
The game also coincided with “Salute the Military night,” which saw 240 sailors, Marines and soldiers present a U.S. flag and a pre-game parachute jump by retired Navy SEALS.
Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to the 2013 Super Bowl but has since been demoted to backup, has said he would not show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses people of color, citing police brutality. He is the latest black athlete to use the arena as a national platform for protest against racial injustice.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes destructive protests in the past two years and prompted the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kaepernick had been sitting out the national anthem in San Francisco’s first three preseason games but it was not widely noticed until last Friday’s game against Green Bay.
The 49ers, who unsuccessfully tried to trade Kaepernick since his demotion, have supported his protest, as have many others, including NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown and National Basketball Association legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
But the demonstration also has drawn fierce criticism from a wide variety of commentators, including the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association, which in a statement called him “misinformed” and demanded an apology.
San Francisco’s former police chief resigned in May under pressure from the city’s mayor following the second of two recent high-profile police killings of black suspects and amid criticism over racist text messages sent by officers in the department.
Photos on sports websites and Twitter on Thursday showed Kaepernick wearing socks patterned with images of pigs with what appear to be police hats. News media reports indicated the photos were taken in mid-August, but the images sparked criticism from some social media users.
In a statement posted to his Instagram page, Kaepernick said he has relatives and friends who are police officers and that he had worn the socks in the past to call attention to “rogue cops.”
Two seasons ago, players on the NFL’s St. Louis Rams entered the stadium for a home game with their hands raised, a reference to the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” slogan adopted by protesters in demonstrations against the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in nearby Ferguson.
More recently, players for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Lynx took the court last month with warmup shirts that said “Black Lives Matter.”
Also on Thursday night, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane didn’t stand for the anthem ahead of a game in Oakland.
The 49ers’ Thursday away game against the San Diego Chargers is the team’s last preseason contest before the regular season begins.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego and Rory Carroll in San Francisco, Amy Tennery in New York; Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Trott)