Pregame rituals rarely make more headlines than the games themselves in the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick dominated the news cycle in the preseason because of his protests during the national anthem.
He carried his message into the regular season Monday, when he elected to kneel during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" before his team's Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reported Kaepernick and 49ers safety Eric Reid kneeled Monday, and ESPN.com's Darren Rovell shared a capture:
Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com noted San Francisco defenders Eli Harold and Antoine Bethea held up their right fists during the anthem. Kevin Jones of KNBR shared a photo of the duo during the anthem, and Harold's reasoning for making the gesture:
After the 49ers' 28-0 win over the Rams, Kaepernick responded to comments made by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who said the backup QB should be "quiet and sit in the shadows and get the starter ready to play Week 1."
Kaepernick told reporters the following, via Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News:
I think that's one of the most ridiculous comments I've heard. The fact that you say, 'You're a back-up quarterback, stay in your place'...You're telling me that my position as a back-up quarterback and being quiet is more important than peoples' lives. I would ask him to have a conversation with the families of people that have been murdered and see if he still feels that way because I'd bet you he doesn't. Just because he hasn't experienced that type of oppression. I hope he goes home and really thinks about what he said and how it impacts not just me but people whose lives are affected on a daily basis.
This came after Kaepernick sat or took a knee during the national anthem before the 49ers' preseason contests to protest the way people of color are treated in the United States. Reid also took a knee with Kaepernick before the team's final preseason game.
The quarterback explained his rationale to NFL.com's Steve Wyche in August.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick initially sat during the anthem but changed his protest to a kneel after meeting with former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks training-camp long snapper Nate Boyer, per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.
There was a strong response to Kaepernick's actions from both inside and outside the sport.
"It's not easy to make a stand and do something that's not popular with everybody," 49ers CEO Jed York said, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think that's what Colin has done. He's done it in a respectful way."
President Barack Obama commented on the 49ers quarterback at the G-20 economic summit in China, saying Kaepernick has generated conversation on important topics.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also discussed Kaepernick's protest, per Barry Wilner of the Associated Press: "I don't necessarily agree with what he is doing. I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don't live in a perfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that."
United States women's national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe took a knee in support of Kaepernick's stance before a National Women's Soccer League match, and Cornell William Brooks—the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—compared the signal-caller to civil rights hero Rosa Parks, per Josh Peter of USA Today.
Other NFL players also partook in the protest during Week 1 of the regular season. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeled during the national anthem before his team took on the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl rematch Thursday.
Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Jelani Jenkins of the Miami Dolphins also took a knee Sunday, per James Walker of ESPN.com:
The Seattle Seahawks elected to lock arms in unity before their game against the Dolphins, as ESPN showed:
There was speculation that Santa Clara, California, police officers who work at 49ers games would boycott their security assignments at Levi's Stadium because of Kaepernick's actions, but Spencer Blake and Carlos Mendoza of KRON 4 in San Francisco reported the officers were set to be there Monday.
Dan Loumena of the Los Angeles Times noted the 49ers "pledged $1 million to two Bay Area organizations that focus on the type of racial and social inequities that Kaepernick has discussed in the aftermath of his refusal to stand during the national anthem in protest of such injustices."
Kaepernick said he would donate $1 million of his base salary and the money he earns from the sale of his jersey to groups that deal with such issues, per Loumena.
Kaepernick entered the season as the team's backup quarterback. Blaine Gabbert, who earned the starting job, will look to move his team to 1-0 against a division rival Monday night.