Colin Kaepernick’s first time on the field since sitting for the national anthem comes in the NFL’s #1 military town on a night dubbed a “Salute to the Military.”
The optics promise a startling contrast if nothing else. As one African American in red, white, and gold sits during the song another, Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell, in dress whites sings it. A color guard representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and 240 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines holding a massive “super flag” on the field aid the visual aspect of the performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Quaalcom Stadium in San Diego.
So-called super flags generally take up the entirety of a football field. Their 300-feet-by-150-feet dimensions almost perfectly correspond to the size and shape of the gridiron. They weigh more than a half ton and cost north of $50,000.
The San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Kaepernick, who finds himself behind Blaine Gabbert on the depth chart, likely plays in the game as teams generally rest starters in the final preseason exhibitions. The timing of the event suggests that although God may possess a sense of humor here the Chargers merely stumble into a strange coincidence. The Chargers hosted the 27th annual “Salute to the Military” at this same time last year.
“At halftime the Chargers will recognize six Vietnam War veterans as a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the war,” the team announced. “The Chargers will also have wounded warriors as special guests and a patriotic fireworks show to wrap up half-time.”
The 28th annual “Salute to the Military” also features Powell returning to sing “God Bless America” during the game. Before the game, a group of Navy Seals plans to parachute down upon Quaalcom Stadium and a Marine Corps Band provides entertainment.
The stadium in San Diego, home to numerous Navy and Marine Corps installations, also hosts thousands of active duty and retired military who intend to make the quarterback’s night memorable.
The veteran player painted himself into this corner with veteran soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines by vowing to continue protesting racial injustice by refusing to stand for the national anthem.
“Yes, I’ll continue to sit,” the San Francisco 49ers QB promised on Sunday. “I’m going to continue to 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 like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick surprised by sitting during “The Star Spangled Banner” at Levi’s Stadium south of San Francisco before Friday’s 21-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. But on the road in San Diego after announcing the continuation of this deed likely plays as a very different affair than at home in the Bay Area without providing any notice beforehand to show disrespect.
Kaepernick says he respects service members but thinks their colleagues who lost their lives fighting died in vain.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” he insisted Sunday. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.”