Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers home opener at Levi’s Stadium.
As violinist Lindsey Stirling played “The Star Spangled Banner,” Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid remained on a knee. The players protested as military personnel held up a football-field-sized flag feet above the field. A banner in the seats at one end zone read: “Home of the Faithful.”
At least four other players offered other protests.
San Francisco linebacker Eli Harold and safety Antoine Bethea raised black-power fists during the song. Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn and wide receiver Kenny Britt also held up fists.
Britt made the hands-up-don’t-shoot gesture two seasons ago along with several teammates when the Rams played in St. Louis in response to the police shooting of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown. Teammate Stedman Bailey, who joined that protest, lost his NFL career last season when criminals struck him twice in the head with bullets fired during a drive-by shooting in Miami Gardens, Florida. Bailey survived the shooting and serves as a student-assistant coach at West Virginia University.
ESPN noted that a fan reacted to Monday night’s demonstration by yelling, “Kaepernick, why don’t you stand up?” The network also showed teammates hugging the backup quarterback after the anthem and numerous fans receiving autographs from Kaepernick and posing for selfies with him before the game.
ESPN color commentator Steve Young praised Kaepernick as “thoughtful” after the anthem. “It’s really raised consciousness,” he claimed, “and it’s a wonderful thing.” Play-by-play man Chris Berman credited Kaepernick with opening up a national “discussion.”
At the conclusion of the previous Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Redskins, announcers Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough praised Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, by noting that he sang along with the anthem before the game.