Among all the dissenting opinions about Colin Kaepernick and his protest, one voice that resonated with him came from his coach, Chip Kelly.
Plenty has been said about Kelly and how he relates to players, but when he was asked last week about Kaepernick’s protest over racial injustice and police brutality, Kelly unequivocally supported his quarterback.
“It’s an issue that’s at the forefront of our country in that it needs to be addressed, it needs to be taken care of because what’s going on is not right,” Kelly said, according to the 49ers’ transcript. “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 of this country and they’re being violated and that’s what I think Colin is standing up for.”
Kelly was also asked how Kaepernick is budgeting his time given his new off-field mission and if it was appropriate for Kaepernick to be discussing social issues with the media after a Week 1 win over the Los Angeles Rams. He praised Kaepernick for his focus on football and said he had no problem with Kaepernick talking about whatever is on his mind, even after a win. Those are questions Kelly could have easily blown off by giving a non-controversial answer. By answering as strongly as he did, it’s clear he’s fully behind Kaepernick’s protest.
Given the wide range of opinions directed at Kaepernick, and the strong words he has surely heard the past month or so, he appreciated his head coach’s comments.
“I think he’s a strong man. I don’t know if he realizes how much that means to me,” Kaepernick said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “If he realizes how much that means to these people, these communities. The fact that he’s willing to take a strong stand and say, ‘These things aren’t right.’ That’s huge coming from a head coach.”
There is still the football question with Kaepernick and Kelly, and when Kaepernick will get a chance to be a starter again. Kelly did not want to bench Blaine Gabbert in Week 3, even during another poor game from his offense. Kelly doesn’t seem eager to bench Gabbert for Kaepernick.
But those are football decisions. Kaepernick’s story has become much bigger than the game over the past month. And when it comes to what Kaepernick is doing in the minutes before the game, as he kneels for the national anthem, Kelly supports his cause.
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