Colin Kaepernick on Wednesday addressed rumors he had converted to Islam, reacted to President Barack Obama’s comments about him and vowed to donate earnings from his soaring jersey sales to his cause.
The 49ers quarterback also said Johnny “Joey” Jones, a Marine staff sargeant who lost both legs in Afghanistan, is among the military members he’s spoken with about his national anthem protest.
“Once again, this isn’t a protest against men and women of the military,” Kaepernick said in front of his locker. “I have great respect for them. Spoke with Nate Boyer and Joey Jones. Those are great military vets and have spoken to others as well.”
For the third time since his anthem protest became public Aug. 26, the normally curt and unquotable quarterback spoke at length to reporters, mostly about his protest. He addressed internet rumors he has converted to Islam – he has not, he said – and was asked whether he was influenced by his girlfriend, Nessa Diab, the star of MTV’s “ “Girl Code” and host of a nationally syndicated radio show.
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“You know, this is an open discussion I have with many people, not just my woman,” Kaepernick said. “She is Muslim; her family’s Muslim. I have great respect for them, I have great respect for people’s right to believe what they want to believe. And I don’t think anybody should be prosecuted or judged based on what their beliefs are.”
It was something that, the jersey sales jumped because of people’s belief that there can be change, and we can make this country better, and that they believe that I was someone that could help that change. And for me, that support is something I have to give back to the communities for that cause.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick sat during the the singing of the national anthem the first three weeks of the preseason, an act that sparked coast-to-coast reaction, including from Obama and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he recognizes Kaepernick’s right to protest but doesn’t “necessarily agree with what he is doing.”
In the last week, Kaepernick’s No. 7 jersey has surged in popularity, becoming the top seller at the 49ers team store and on NFLShop.com.
Kaepernick said he’d donate his jersey earnings toward organizations that support his push to end racial inequality in this country. Various NFL agents Wednesday said a top-selling jersey could earn a player roughly $300,000 to $500,000. Last week Kaepernick said he also would donate the first $1 million he earns this season.
“It was something that, the jersey sales jumped because of people’s belief that there can be change, and we can make this country better, and that they believe that I was someone that could help that change,” Kaepernick said. “And for me, that support is something I have to give back to the communities for that cause.”
Kaepernick invited Boyer, a former Green Beret, to watch last week’s 49ers’ preseason finale against the host San Diego Chargers from the San Francisco sideline. He, Boyer and safety Eric Reid met several hours before the game and decided kneeling during the anthem would convey more respect than sitting. Reid knelt next to Kaepernick, and Boyer stood next to them.
I think a lot of the initial shock of what the protest was about and the significance of that was lost in the action, and the message wasn’t really addressed. And I think that was great that (President Barack Obama) came out and supported the message – that we do need to make changes in these areas.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick
Like Boyer, Jones initially was angry with Kaepernick’s method of protest. Jones lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010.
“When you sit there and equate my pride in my country to a bigot in some other place,” Jones said during an interview on Fox. “ ... I take issue with that.”
Jones, however, reached out to Boyer after seeing Boyer and Kaepernick in San Diego. He then contacted Kaepernick.
“It meant a lot,” Kaepernick said. “I think once we had a conversation, and once we talked and he understood what the protest was really about, it was something he realized those changes do need to be made, and it wasn’t an attack on the military or their pride in this country.
The issue also was addressed by Obama, who said Kaepernick’s method of protest made things “messy” but the quarterback raised “some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”
“I think a lot of the initial shock of what the protest was about and the significance of that was lost in the action, and the message wasn’t really addressed,” Kaepernick said. “And I think that was great that (Obama) came out and supported the message – that we do need to make changes in these areas.”