Harbaugh, Lewis back free speech but not Kaepernick’s action

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jourdan Lewis

Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he does not support the “action” Colin Kaepernick, his quarterback while coach of the 49ers, took to protest by sitting during the national anthem before a game last week.

Harbaugh, during a news conference Monday, was asked about Kaepernick’s stance. Kaepernick has said he refused to stand because he will not show pride in a flag that “oppresses black people and people of color.”

“I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh later took to Twitter to clarify his comment, distancing himself from the appearance of criticizing Kaepernick's right to free speech.

“I apologize for misspeaking my true sentiments. To clarify, I support Colin’s motivation. It’s his method of action that I take exception to.”

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Michigan senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who frequently has used social media to share his opinions on many social issues, said Monday that he appreciates Kaepernick’s stance but did not condone his action.

“The freedom of speech thing is a really big deal, but I wouldn’t go against America as a whole,” Lewis said. “There has been inequality for some time now but to say that I want to be somewhere else would be a lie, because I love America and I will always want to be here.

“I had the greatest opportunity in the world here. To say that America has done me wrong would be a lie, but to say there (isn’t) inequality would also be a lie, so I really do resonate with his message, not so much how he went about it.”

Lewis said he is, like Kaepernick, passionate about the issue of inequality.

“The whole Black Lives Matter thing is a really big deal to me, because you know, all lives matter, but you have to have a scope on what’s really going on,” Lewis said. “It is inequality in America in how they treat minorities right now. It is a really big deal, and I’m glad he stood up for what he believed in and for a lot of things I believe. I will speak out about inequality, definitely. The way he did it? Nah.”

This is not the first time Harbaugh has taken a stand on a social issue. Last year when the University of Michigan decided not to show the film “American Sniper” because of a petition drive by students, Harbaugh jumped on Twitter to show support for the movie that features the Iraq War.

“Michigan Football will watch “American Sniper”! Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!” Harbaugh tweeted in April 2015.

Michigan then opted to show the film and said in a statement, “The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.”