In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Colin Kaepernick has not hesitated to speak up about his reasoning for protesting the national anthem after games this year, but he just gave his first one-on-one interview since the protests began.
In a conversation with ESPN’s The Undefeated, Kaep spoke about his protest in detail. He said that he didn’t expect many other athletes to follow suit, or for the protest to have such a large response that it would spark conversations for people to address their prejudices. But that he was grateful for the support he has received so far.
“(A)s far as the things that have most touched me is the kids, the communities, the support. Something that everybody else saw and was like, ‘You know what? I believe in what that movement is, in what that issue he’s trying to fight for is,'” he said. “And things that hurt, I haven’t really focused on that too much. Part of the oppressive system is you’re going to have that backlash for trying to fight for people. And that was something I was fully prepared for, fully aware of, so when those things came, it was expected. It wasn’t an issue for me. The support is really what, to me, was huge and really gave me excitement and gave me life as far as people are seeing this the same way I am and now we can help create change.”
He was also asked if his protests have added more pressure for him to perform well on the field; he was a backup player for all of the preseason, and last week he was announced as the starter after poor play from the previous starter, Blaine Gabbert. He said that although he understands that he has a larger platform as a professional athlete, that the protest doesn’t further incentivize him to perform well on the field.
“No I don’t. For me, football is my job. That’s my profession. That’s I do in that aspect of my life,” Kaepernick said. “This is who I am as a human being and what my beliefs are. So for me, that’s completely separate. Although football does give you the platform to be heard, ultimately these issues exist regardless of whether or not football exists. So it’s not something that is related to football. Football just allows a platform to have conversations on a greater extent about these issues.”
Kaepernick began sit out the traditional pre-game salute of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the NFL pre-season. When reporters asked why, he said it was to speak out in protest of the United States’ refusal to protect people of color from police brutality. He now kneels during the anthem, but his protest ignited similar support from other players in the NFL and soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who also kneel. Other athletes in the NFL and the NBA (kneeling is against the rules in the NBA, but not the NFL), who lock arms during the anthem to show solidarity.
Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million of his 2016-17 salary, and the revenue from his rising jersey sales, to organizations that fight the issues he is protesting.
Watch a clip of Kaepernick’s interview with The Undefeated below.