NFL's 49ers support quarterback after he refused to stand for anthem

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KAEPERNICK CONFIDENT: Colin Kaepernick talks about Friday's Preseason start

Aug 27 (Reuters) - National League quarterback Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco 49ers refused to stand for the national anthem before a preseason game on Friday, drawing boos from some fans and criticism on social media, but his team said it backed his right to protest.

Kaepernick, a former starter who led San Francisco to the 2013 Super Bowl but has since been demoted to backup, said he sat on the bench during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to make a statement about racial injustice in the United States.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick later told NFL Media in an article posted on Saturday. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

Kaepernick appeared to be referring to police use of deadly force, which has come under increased criticism in recent years as incidents have been captured on cellphone video.

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SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers congratulates Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears following the game at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston (99), cornerback Tim Jennings (26) and free safety Ryan Mundy (21) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick throws a pass as he warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws the ball before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick walks off the field after an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 23-3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during an NFL football training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick prepares to throw during an NFL football training camp on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gets help stretching during an NFL football training camp on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Colin Kaepernick and Chrissy Teigen present the award for best female athlete at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick calls a play during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers runs drills on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws an interception during the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Blaine Gabbert #2 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers head to the field prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The Bears defeated the 49ers 28-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the second quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks to pass during the first quarter of a game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 07: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX- AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers on the sidelines agains the Houston Texans in a pre-season NFL game on August 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up before playing the Houston Texans in a pre-season game at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston, Texas, USA. 28th Aug, 2014. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) prior to an NFL preseason game between the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on August 28th, 2014. © Trask Smith/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Parents Teresa and Rick with their son Colin Kaepernick wearing a 49er cap at their Turlock home after in the 2nd round of the NFL draft he was picked by the San Francisco. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRE
April 29, 2011 - Turlock, California, U.S. - (Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com) - Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round of the NFL drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. (Credit Image: © Debbie Noda/Modesto Bee/ZUMAPRESS.com)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick speaks during a press conference at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday, January 27, 2012. The 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 3. (Jane Tyska/Oakland Tribune/MCT)
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick talks with on of the teens at Jessica's House in Turlock CA during a quick visit. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
Turlock, CA, USA. 2nd May, 2014. Colin Kaepernick took a second to pose for a group photo with several kids at Jessica's House in Turlock CA. Jessica's House provides free support in a safe place for children, teen and their families grieving a death. © Marty Bicek/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy Live News
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He said he was prepared for rejection by the public and did not warn anyone of his plans.

"If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right," Kaepernick said.

When Kaepernick came into the game at the team's home stadium in Santa Clara, California, fans greeted him with boos and cheers.

The team, which has unsuccessfully tried to trade Kaepernick to another team since his demotion, issued a statement of support after the game.

"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony," the team said. "In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."

Social media was less forgiving. While some Twitter users supported his right to free speech, the feed of sports website Busted Coverage, which has 70,000 followers, called him "an idiot."

"Colin Kaepernick can get the hell out of our country. No respect for this guy," said Tyler Nelson, who calls himself a Carolina Panthers fan with 134 followers.

Athletes have long used their fame to make political statements, as typified by the Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos holding up their fists in a black power salute during a medals ceremony in 1968.

Two seasons ago, players on the NFL's St. Louis Rams entered the stadium for a home game with their hands raised, a reference to the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" slogan adopted by protesters in demonstrations against the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

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