Chip Kelly on Thursday showed his strongest support yet of Colin Kaepernick, who appears on cover of this week's TIME magazine, saying the 49ers quarterback is "shedding light on an issue that is heinous."
“You look at what’s gone on in Tulsa and in Charlotte the last two nights — it’s an issue that’s at the forefront of our country,” Kelly said. “And it needs to be addressed and needs to be taken care of. Because what’s going on is not right. So I think, again, he’s shedding light on a situation that is heinous and shouldn’t happen in this country. We all have inalienable rights as a citizen in this country and they’re being violated. And I think that’s what Colin is standing up for.”
Kaepernick has not stood during the national anthem for six straight games in order to protest racial injustice in this country, including police brutality and police shootings.
In the span of four weeks, Kaepernick has become a national symbol, and his kneeling gesture during the anthem has been followed by high school players and those in other sports. Kelly said that exposure has not affected Kaepernick's role on the 49ers.
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"When he's here, he's all football," Kelly said. "… He understands what his job is and he's balanced it really well and he's managed it really well. He's focused, he's dialed in when we're at practice. He’s dialed in when we’re in meetings.”
Since the regular season began, Kaepernick has spoken to the media on Tuesdays and after games. He has not granted any one-on-one sessions since his anthem protest become public Aug. 26 and, despite being on the cover of TIME, did not take part in an interview with the magazine.
When it was suggested that Kaepernick took over the locker room and media spotlight after the 49ers’ Sept. 12 win over the Rams, Kelly said the quarterback merely was answering questions.
“When he’s asked a question, he should answer what his feelings are,” he said. “If you don’t believe that’s the things, maybe you shouldn’t ask him those questions.”