PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick raised eyebrows on Friday when he refused to stand for the National Anthem at a game, saying he will not stand for the anthem until he sees some changes in race relations in the United States.
Kaepernick has played for the San Francisco 49ers since he was drafted by the team in 2011.
But during last week’s pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick refused to stand during “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all,” says Kaepernick. “It’s not happening for all right now. There are a lot of things that need to change; one in specific is police brutality. Cops are getting paid leave for killing people.”
Fans are outraged. Some are burning their Kaepernick jerseys.
Kaepernick’s protest isn’t sitting well with some of the Pittsburgh Steelers, either, specifically left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
“I agree that America is not perfect, I agree there are lot of issues with minorities in this country, I agree we should do something about it,” said Villanueva, who is of Spanish descent. “But I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down when the national anthem of the country that is providing you freedom and providing you $60 million a year is the best way to do it when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting our freedom for less than $20,000 a year.”
Villanueva was an active member of the U.S. Army from 2010 to 2013 before coming to the Steelers. He is a former Army Ranger, served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, and is a decorated veteran, earning a Bronze Star Medal of Valor.
“I just know I’m very thankful to be an American,” Villanueva said. “I will stand very proudly and sing every single line of the national anthem every single time I hear it. I will stop whatever I’m doing because I recognize I have to be very thankful to be in this country.”
Villanueva said he understands Kaepernick’s right to speak and act freely, but he should use his platform more carefully.
“I think he’s obviously upset and I think we all agree, the majority of America would agree, there’s an issue with minorities in our country, the way some groups in our population are being treated,” Villanueva said. “I just think not standing up for America is a little bit unfair on his part because he’s not taking into consideration the minorities that are fighting for the flag, like myself, the thousands of people who lay their lives so he can express himself.”
Kaepernick says he is prepared to deal with the consequences of his actions, but that he feels strongly about the racial tension in America.
He says, remaining seated during the anthem proves his point.
“If he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it’s going to send the wrong message,” says Villanueva.