Lions on Kaepernick's decision: 'Have to respect it'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he'll continue to sit during the national anthem until there's significant change.

Allen Park — Add Lions coach Jim Caldwell to the list of people who don’t necessary agree with the action, but embrace the freedoms that allow San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest by remaining seated during the national anthem.

As national outrage grows, Kaepernick said he will continue to sit during the pregame tradition as long as he feels the United States continues to oppress “black people and people of color.”

“Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and to make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” Kaepernick said. “There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t really being held accountable for and that’s something that needs to change. This country stands for liberty, freedom and justice for all and that’s not happening for all right now.

“I’m going to continue to sit and stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change, and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, I’ll stand. “

His decision has drawn a mixed reaction from players around the league, including former teammates Anquan Bolidn and Alex Boone.

Boone, an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings and brother of a retired Marine, expressed anger toward the man he used to protect on the field.

“That flag obviously gives him the right to do whatever he wants,” Boone told local media. “I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.

“We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts.”

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Boldin, who played the last two seasons with Kaepernick, also offers an interesting perspective. The Lions receiver’s cousin was fatally shot by a police officer last year. That officer is facing manslaughter and attempted murder charges for his action.

“I think a lot of people get bent out of shape about it, but even if you don’t agree with what someone does, you still have to respect somebody’s opinion and how they feel about something,” Boldin said after the Lions exhibition on Saturday. “You can agree, or disagree, but you still have to respect it. That’s the right we have as Americans, and that’s the great thing about being American.”

Caldwell agrees.

“He’s a young man that’s expressing a feeling that he had,” Caldwell said. “I don’t necessarily agree with what he does, but the fact of the matter is he’s open to express himself. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion in this country, that’s the great thing about this country.”

This isn’t new territory for Caldwell. Two years ago, former Lions running back Reggie Bush went through pregame warmups wearing a shirt that read, “I can’t breathe,” the final words of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer attempting to make an arrest.

Bush, like Kaepernick, was attempting to use his platform as a professional athlete to raise awareness about police brutality against minorities.

At the time, Caldwell had no issues with Bush’s decision.

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“I grew up in the ‘60s where everybody was socially conscious,” Caldwell said. “I believe in it. I’d be a hypocrite if I stood up here and told you any differently because more than likely, some of those protests that Dr. (Martin Luther) King and some of the others that took part in non-violent protest is the reason why I’m standing here in front of you today. So, yeah, absolutely, no question about it, I don’t mind it.”

On Monday, Caldwell noted if he had a player on his roster who sought to mimic Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem, he would talk to the player about the action and possible reaction. Caldwell also said he would never mandate the player participate.

“We just make sure that they’re looking at it and taking a second to pause and look at it from both sides,” Caldwell said. “If they feel strongly about something, I certainly don’t mind that they speak their mind.”