San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York said he didn't believe former Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick was being disrespectful by taking a knee during the United States national anthem.
During an appearance on Freakonomics Radio's The Hidden Side of Sports, York also said the organization didn't attempt to steer other NFL teams away from the polarizing QB:
"It's hard for me to see taking a knee—like, if you can come up with a community or society where taking a knee is a disrespectful act, like by all means show me. I feel like he tried to modify his position to be as respectful as possible during a very, very sacrosanct moment during a professional football game. And I think that the narrative sort of spun out of control. ... We had no negative conversations with other teams saying, 'Don't sign Colin.' We wouldn't do that with Colin. We wouldn't do that with anybody."
Kaepernick started the kneeling movement in August 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told NFL Media's Steve Wyche at the time. "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 opted out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017 and hasn't signed with a new team despite his extended stay on the free-agent market.
In April, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported a meeting between the 30-year-old Wisconsin native and the Seattle Seahawks was canceled after he "declined to say he would stop kneeling during the national anthem next season" if signed for the 2018 season.
The quarterback is involved in an ongoing collusion case against the league.
Nike introduced Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign earlier this month:
Meanwhile, the NFL has struggled to handle the dividing nature of the anthem debate.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month showed 54 percent of respondents considered kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner "inappropriate," while 43 percent said it was an "appropriate way to bring attention to the problems" the protests aim to bring forward.
Although NFL owners approved a plan in May that would have allowed the league to fine teams who had a player kneel on the sideline during the anthem, enforcement of the policy remains on hold after the NFL and the NFL Players Association came to a "standstill agreement" amid further discussions on the issue.
Kaepernick has earned several honors for his efforts, including the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and GQ magazine's Citizen of the Year in 2017.