Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest has officially lasted into the regular season, and ESPN treated it like the big story it has become.
ESPN had planned to show the anthem before the 49ers game live on ESPN2 if it conflicted with the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Washington Redskins game on ESPN. But the first game of the Monday night doubleheader ended in time for ESPN to show the anthem in Santa Clara, Calif., live. Right after the anthem started, the camera focused on Kaepernick and 49ers safety Eric Reid, Kaepernick on his right knee and Reid on his left. They were the only players who were shown taking a knee, but others recognized the protest over racial injustice. When ESPN showed the Rams sideline, defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Kenny Britt had their fists raised. In 2014 Britt led a “hands up” protest against police brutality and was joined by a few Rams teammates.
Kenny Britt and Robert Quinn with fists in the air during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/xQYNfGLXce
— Josh Katzowitz (@joshkatzowitz) September 13, 2016
On the other sideline, 49ers players Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold also had their fists raised as they stood behind Reid and Kaepernick.
Other 49ers decide to join Kaepernick and Eric Reid pic.twitter.com/O6jWzS51BG
— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) September 13, 2016
After the anthem, multiple teammates came over to Kaepernick to give him five and embrace him.
ESPN sideline reporter Lindsay Czarniak said she was behind the 49ers bench and could hear some fans yelling during the anthem, “Kaepernick, why don’t you stand up?” Czarniak said those fans were isolated. ESPN spent several minutes between the anthem and kickoff discussing Kaepernick and the reaction to him.
Other NFL players have joined in. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeled before last Thursday’s regular-season opener. Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs, Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett of New England Patriots and several Tennessee Titans players stood for the anthem on Sunday but raised their fists. Some from the Miami Dolphins took a knee for the anthem on Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks locked arms in a show of unity.
ESPN showed video of Kaepernick signing many autographs and taking pictures with fans during pre-game warmups before Monday night’s game. It’s clear that while there are critics of his protest, he has many supporters too.
What started as a protest during the preseason, which nobody even noticed until the 49ers’ third game, has turned into a movement by several NFL players. On Monday night, the entire nation got to watch Kaepernick take a knee.
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