SANTA CLARA — Here’s the transcript of Colin Kaepernick’s Sunday press conference.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish by not standing for the national anthem?
KAEPERNICK: Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what is really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust and people aren’t being held accountable for. That’s something that needs to change. Our country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all, and it’s not happening for all right now.
Q: How has this progressed that you’ve made a stand like this?
KAEPERNICK: It’s something that I’ve seen, I’ve felt. Wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally. And it is something that has evolved. It’s something that as I’ve gained more knowledge about what is going on in this country in the past and what is going on currently – these aren’t new situations. This isn’t new ground These are things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed, and they need to be.
Q: Will you continue to sit?
KAEPERNICK: Yes. I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and 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.
Q: Specifically what would you like to see changed?
KAEPERNICK: There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. Cops are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.
Q: So many people see the flag as the symbol of the military. How do you view it and what do you say to those people?
KAEPERNICK: I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. 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. And 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 and liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
Q: Have you personally felt oppressed?
KAEPERNICK: There have been situations where I feel like I’ve been ill-treated, yes. But this stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.
Q: Is this the first year that didn’t stand during the anthem?
KAEPERNICK: This year’s the first year that I’ve done this.
Q: All preseason games so far?
Q: How did your teammates respond when you explained yourself?
KAEPERNICK: The support I’ve gotten from my teammates has been great. I think a lot of my teammates come from areas where this might be the situation. Their families might be put in this situation. It’s something that I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I really respect you for what you’re doing and what you’re standing for.’ So, to me that’s something that I know what I’m doing was right and I know other people see what I’m doing is right. It’s something that we have to come together, we have to unite, we have to unify and make a change.
Q: What do you say to people who say you’re doing the right thing but you’re going about it the wrong way?
KAEPERNICK: I don’t understand how it’s the wrong way. To me, this is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military thing, it’s a freedom that men and women that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by the contributions they have made. So, I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way. This is something that has to be said. It has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention and, when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation and then really effect change.
Q: You’ve done it every preseason. Were you relieved that this became public so your voice could be hear?
KAEPERNICK: It wasn’t something that I really planned as far as it blowing up. It was something that I personally decided I just can’t stand for what this represents right now. It’s not right. And the fact that it has blown up like this, I think it’s a good thing. It brings awareness. Everybody knows what’s going on and this sheds more light on it. Now I think people are really talking about it, having conversations about how to make change and what’s really going on this country. And we can move forward.
Q: Are you concerned that this can be seen as a blanket indictment against law enforcement in general?
KAEPERNICK: As far as what? I don’t really understand what you’re trying to get at.
Q: You said people are being murdered by police. Do you think that could be seen as an indictment against police?
KAEPERNICK: There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it, and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So, that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.
Q: Do you plan to do things beyond sitting during the national anthem, as far as activism?
KAEPERNICK: Yeah, most definitely. There are things that I have in the works right now that I’m working on to put together in the future and have come to fruition soon. Those are things that I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.
Q: Any concern about the timing of this and the possibility if it being a distraction?
KAEPERNICK: No. I don’t see it as a distraction. I think it’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country. If we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people, if we have these conversations there’s a better understanding of where both sides are coming from. And if we reach common ground and can understand what everybody’s going through, we can really effect change and make sure that everyone is treated equally and has the same freedom.
Q: Has anyone from the league or the team asked you to tone it down? It doesn’t seem as if anyone if trying to quiet you.
KAEPERNICK: No. No one has tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about. I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice, and this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful, to provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.
Q: In your mind have you been pulled over unjustly or had a bad experience?
KAEPERNICK: Yes, multiple times. I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of a house in college and, because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and we had guns drawn on us. Came in the house without knocking, guns drawn on my teammates and roommates. So, I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here or a one-off case there. This has become habitual. This has become a habit. So it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Q: You’re the only player in the NFL taking this stand. Why do you think you’re the only one doing this?
KAEPERNICK: I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation. They’re scared they might lose their job or they might not get the endorsements, they might not to be treated the same way. Those are things I’m prepared to handle, and those are things that other people might not be ready for. It’s just a matter of where you’re at in your life, where your mind is at. At this point I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that. But I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I‘ve had and say ‘You know what? I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch.
Q: Do you think you might get cut over this?
KAEPERNICK: I don’t know. But if I do, I know I did what’s right. And I can live with that at the end of the day.
Q: Does this have reflect your relationship with the 49ers or the NFL?
KAEPERNICK: No. This is about the way people have been treated by this country.
Q: How long did you talk to the team?
KAEPERNICK: It was a conversation and they asked me to talk and just explain why I did what I did and why I felt the way I felt. I had an open conversation with them. I told them why I felt that way and why I looked at things the way I do. And a lot of it has to do with the history of the country and where we’re currently at. And I opened it up to all my teammates. Come talk to me if you have any questions. If you want to understand what I’m thinking further, come talk to me. This isn’t something that should be hidden and shouldn’t be talked about. It happened and I think it’s something that can bring everybody closer.
Q: Were there people that voiced disagreement?
KAEPERNICK: There were people that said, ‘I want to understand further, let’s talk.’ So, I’ve had those conversations and will continue to have them with my teammates. It’s something that – the knowledge of what’s happened in this country and what’s currently happening, it’s something that I think everybody needs to know. And when you have the knowledge of those things you can make an educated decision on what you really feel and what you really stand for.
Q: Have people outside sports world reached out to say they support you?
KAEPERNICK: I’ve had a few people reach out. Quite a few, actually. Saying, ‘We really support you. We’re proud of you for taking a stand. We respect what you’re doing. We know a lot is coming to come with it, but we’re behind you.’ And that means a lot. That means I’m not the only one who feels this way and I’m not the only one who sees things this way.
Q: Is the team talking about this or the Super Bowl?
KAEPERNICK: No, we’re focused on football while we’re in meetings, while we’re on the field. That’s what our focus is. But in our free time, we have conversations about this. And that’s not something that we should be ashamed about or shy away from. We talk about football, we handle our business there but there’s also a social responsibility that we have to be educated on these things and talk about these things.
Q: Would you consider forming an alliance and getting teammates to join?
KAEPERNICK: This isn’t something I’m going to ask other people to put their necks out for what I’m doing. If they agree with me and feel strongly about it, then by all means I hope they stand with me. But I’m not going to go and try to recruit people like, ‘Hey, come do this with me,’ because I know the consequences that come with that and they need to make that decision for themselves.
Q: Did you reach out to anyone for council before this?
KAEPERNICK: This is a conversation I’ve had with a lot of people a lot of times over a long period of time so it wasn’t something that I planned on having a conversation about at a particular time. It just so happened it was the other night that people realized it and talked about it.
Q: Do you have any concern that the focus is on you and not the issues?
KAEPERNICK: I do think that the talk has been more about me, more about… I know a lot of people’s initial reactions thought it was bashing the military, which it wasn’t. That wasn’t my intention at all. I think now that we have those things cleared up, we can get to the root of what I was saying and really address those issues
Q: Since you’ve done this, do you know of any other players who feel the same but are not ready to step forward publicly?
KAEPERNICK: Yeah. I know there’s other players that feel the same way. I’ve had other players reach out to me. Once again, it’s not something I’m going to ask them to put their necks out. I know the consequences that come along with my decision, and if they feel strongly and want to stand with me, then I hope they do. If it’s something they’re not ready for, that’s what the conversations are for and they can make that decision when they’re ready or if they’re ready.
Q: Do you feel you’ll be safe in some of the road cities? Will you take precautions?
KAEPERNICK: Not really too concerned about that. At the end of the day if something happens, that’s only proving my point.
Q: Have you consulted with Dr. Harry Edwards?
KAEPERNICK: Once again, it wasn’t something I consulted anybody on. It was a conversation I had when someone asked me about it. Dr. Edwards is a good friend, he’s someone I talk to a lot and run things by and have a lot of conversations with, and we have a lot of similar views.
Q: The fact that this is an election year have anything to do with timing of this?
KAEPERNICK: Once again, it wasn’t a timing thing, it wasn’t something that was planned. But I think the two presidential candidates that we currently have also represent the issues that we have in this country right now.
Q: Do you want to expand on that?
KAEPERNICK: You have Hillary who has called black teens or black kids ‘super predators.’ You have Donald Trump who’s openly racist. We have a presidential candidate who has deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person you’d be in prison. So, what is this country really standing for?
Q: It is a country that has elected a black president twice. Can you see people that say, ‘Why the outrage?’
KAEPERNICK: It has elected a black president, but there are also a lot of things that haven’t changed. There are a lot of issues that still haven’t been addressed and that’s something over an eight-year term there’s a lot of those things are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.
Q: What would be a success for you on this in the short term?
KAEPERNICK: That’s a tough question because there’s a lot of things that need to change and a lot of different issues that need to be addressed. That’s something that