Colin Kaepernick has made more headlines for kneeling during the national anthem as a form of civil rights protest than for playing as of late, with the quarterback filling the backup role to Blaine Gabbert for the San Francisco 49ers. But Chip Kelly, the team’s head coach, announced today that Kaepernick won’t be on the bench this Sunday.
Kelly made the call today that the Nike-wearing Kaepernick would get his first start of the NFL season: Oct. 16 against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The first-year coach of the 49ers said during a press conference today that starting Kaepernick over Gabbert was “a football decision.”
Although Kaepernick has been second on the San Francisco quarterback depth chart, he has a strong history of stellar on-the-field accomplishments since 2011 — including leading the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, a loss to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.
But his national-anthem protest this season has made him a villain to some, and a hero to others.
In the preseason, Kaepernick initially chose to sit during the song. In a postgame press conference, he explained his actions: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The quarterback changed his protest from sitting to kneeling during the Sept. 1 preseason matchup against the San Diego Chargers to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members, a decision made after speaking with former NFL player and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer.
Kaepernick was featured in Nike’s ads promoting its 2015 Tech Fleece Aeroloft Collection, the Zoom Field General (the brand’s first football-specific training shoe) and other campaigns.