On the same day 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Colin Kaepernick would play Thursday in military-heavy San Diego, the quarterback’s national anthem protest continued to be the talk of the country, including by someone running for its highest office.
“I have followed it and I think personally it’s a terrible thing,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Monday on the Dori Monson radio show. “And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It’s not going to happen.”
On Sunday, Kaepernick said he couldn’t honor the flag of a country with so many issues. He said the two presidential candidates embody those problems.
“You have Donald Trump, who’s openly racist,” he said. “We have a presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) 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?”
Kelly, meanwhile, said Kaepernick will play in the 49ers’ preseason finale Thursday because the quarterback needs more work after missing two games because of a fatigued throwing shoulder.
“We plan on playing him this week,” Kelly said on KNBR radio. “How much? I don’t really know yet.”
Kelly has said Kaepernick still is competing with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. However, a Fox Sports report over the weekend asserted Kaepernick may not even make the season-opening roster.
The 49ers will owe Kaepernick $11.9 million whether he is on the team or not. But they could save as much as $2 million in roster bonuses if he is released. The team also would have to pay Kaepernick his 2017 base salary, $14.5 million, if he gets hurt this season and is still injured April 1.
The contractual situation, plus Kaepernick’s halting recovery from three surgeries, at least makes his spot a question mark. Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins was asked Monday whether Kaepernick would be on the Week 1 roster.
“I would anticipate that, but it’s not, you know, that’s not where we’re at right now,” Modkins said. “We’re getting ready for the Chargers right now and he’ll be there. So I don’t anticipate that not being the case.”
Kelly said Kaepernick had an “up and down” outing Friday against the Green Bay Packers, the first time Kaepernick threw a pass in a game in nearly 10 months. Kelly highlighted a third-down pass to wide receiver DeAndrew White that gained a first down.
“In other instances, he didn’t have a ton of time from a protection standpoint (and) just had to make the best out of it from a production standpoint,” Kelly said. “But obviously it wasn’t what we want from anybody on the offense during the time he was in there.”
Thursday’s game is in San Diego, which has a heavy naval presence and the largest military population on the West Coast. The biennial preseason contest against the 49ers typically is well-attended by military members.
One other NFL player, Philadelphia Eagles rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres, said he’d follow Kaepernick’s lead by sitting during the national anthem at Thursday’s game against the New York Jets.
“Really, what’s at stake is my pride, and what kind of man would I be and what kind of African American would I be if I didn’t stand my ground on this issue we have today?” he told Philadelphia-area reporters. “(It) needs to be done.”
Later in the day, however, Tavarres’ agent said the linebacker changed his mind and would stand during the anthem because he didn’t want to be a distraction.
Others weighed in on the topic.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Kaepernick’s ex-49ers coach and one of his biggest backers, posted Monday on Twitter he supports the quarterback’s motivation: “It’s his method of action that I take exception to,” Harbaugh wrote.
Harbaugh handpicked Kaepernick in the 2011 draft and spoke highly of him this offseason following the quarterback’s rocky 2015 performance. Harbaugh, however, also is a proud admirer of the military, often quoting admirals and generals and inviting military members to speak in front of his teams.
Alex Boone, a former 49ers offensive lineman now with the Minnesota Vikings, said Kaepernick’s action “drove me nuts.”
“That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants,” Boone said. “I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.”
Kaepernick’s current teammate on the offensive line, Anthony Davis, said on Twitter, “Kap has made a lot of valid points and I feel that this conversation is very necessary.”
Kelly noted on KNBR he had been overseas to visit U.S. troops twice and has friends serving in the military.
“I kind of think about them and say a prayer that they all make it back safely,” he said of his routine during the national anthem.
Does that make Kaepernick’s stance more difficult to reconcile?
“Yeah, but part of the flag is that you’re allowed to have your own opinion in the United States,” Kelly said. “And that’s what makes this the greatest country in the world.”