This may be the most attention a preseason NFL game has ever received.
All eyes were on Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Thursday night. And there he was, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, continuing his protest of police treatment of communities of color by kneeling through the national anthem.
He had company this week, as safety Eric Reid — one of the Niners’ best players in the defensive unit — took a seat next to him on the sideline.
Former Green Beret and 49er aspirant Nate Boyer gave Kaepernick a hug after the conclusion of the anthem on the Chargers’ “Salute to The Military” Night. (Boyer didn’t boycott the song, but did offer his support to Kap in a tweet before the game, writing, “Good talk. Let’s just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about.”)
Thanks for the invite brother… Good talk. Let’s just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about pic.twitter.com/LgjPpjk173
— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) September 2, 2016
Fans showed up early to boo Kaepernick. They booed during the beginning of the national anthem, when he assumed his position, and they didn’t lose their enthusiasm as the game wore on.
But Kaepernick stood tall in his first drive and mastered an impressive 85-yard drive for a touchdown. In total, he played three series, totaling 103 yards on 11-for-18 passing and 38 yards on the ground. And while he was playing against reserve defenders, his play will make it hard for the 49ers to cut him for “football reasons.”
Head coach Chip Kelly has said throughout training camp that he just needed to see Kaepernick get reps in game action. Well, he saw it, and it certainly wasn’t worse than anything Blaine Gabbert or Jeff Driskel have done in their respective opportunities. (Driskel threw an interception on his first attempt of the contest.)
Many have conflated Kaepernick’s opposition to police brutality with disrespect for the military, but the quarterback stood and applauded as veterans were honored on field in the first half, according to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. He also stood through God Bless America.
Colin Kaepernick stands for “God Bless America,” and applauds the singing of Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell from the U.S. Navy.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) September 2, 2016
Meanwhile in Oakland, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane took a seat at The Coliseum during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 2, 2016
Earlier in the day, photos surfaced of Kaepernick wearing socks with pigs wearing police hats from about a month ago. Admittedly, it was a bad look, and the quarterback got ahead of the story by posting a statement on Instagram deriding the attention as a “distraction” from his overall point that rogue cops should be protested.
But after captivating the national discussion for almost a week, it’s all the more impressive that Kaepernick had a banner day on Thursday.