Spike Lee told Anderson Cooper on Monday night that Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem is similar to previous protests by black athletes, including Muhammad Ali.
Lee said that Ali was once “the most hated person in America” for a similar stance. He expressed disappointment that three players from his favorite NFL team, the New York Giants, criticized Kaepernick, adding he bets they love Ali.
Lee asked, “How can you love Muhammad Ali and not love [Kaepernick] for the stance he took?”
Kaepernick did not stand up for the anthem before Friday night’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers and explained to reporters that he was sending a message that is bigger than football.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick also said he won’t “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people.”
The 49ers issued this statement: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Kaepernick frequently sends messages on social media pertaining to civil rights. The former star has seen his career suffer recently, and he’s now in a competition with Blaine Gabbert for the starting gig. Many experts feel Kaepernick is a perfect fit for new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, but Kaepernick’s injuries and poor performance have resulted in Kelly being forced to discuss if Kaepernick will even make the team.