Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is defending Colin Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the National Anthem last season.
“I think he should be on a roster right now,” he told ESPN’s Mina Kimes. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
“I’m gonna stand because that’s the way I feel about the flag — but I’m also 100 percent supportive of my teammates or any fellow players who are choosing not to,” he said. “They have a battle for racial equality. That’s what they’re trying to get a conversation started around.”
With the beginning of the NLF season just over a week away, Kaepernick is still unsigned after backing out of his contract with San Fransisco earlier this year, despite his merits as a player. Kaepernick previously led the 49ers to the Superbowl, has six playoff games under his belt and last season threw 16 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Kaepernick made waves last season when he knelt during the National Anthem to protest social injustice in the U.S., and has inspired protests this season already. Just last week, people gathered outside NFL headquarters in New York in support of Kaepernick, and some are encouraging fans to boycott watching NFL games. And, even though the player remains unsigned, merchandise with Kaepernick’s name is among official NFL merchandise Top 50 list and his protest jersey was donated to the Smithsonian.
In this year’s preseason, other players are mimicking Kaepernick’s protest from last year. The Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett knelt during the National Anthem in the Hawks’ pre-season games, and several Cleveland Browns players knelt during the Anthem preceding their game against the New York Giants, including tight end Seth DeValve, who is the first white player to kneel.
Last year, Rodgers told Sporting News that while he didn’t feel the same as Kaepernick, he respected his protest. “To me, the flag represents the greatest ideals of the United States of America, not the worst,” he said. “But different people look at different things and have different feelings about it. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.”
The Packers’ GM Ted Thompson said earlier this month that players have every right to protest under free speech.
“I view this as something you’re asking me from a personal standpoint,” he said. “Not what I would do, but what I would feel about a particular player if he made such and such action, or if he failed to make such and such action. This is a free country in my opinion, and free people can do what they like.”