Transcript of Colin Kaepernick's comments about sitting during national anthem

11:09 PM ET

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spent more than 18 minutes discussing his decision to sit for the national anthem on Sunday afternoon. Below is the complete transcript of Kaepernick’s remarks. Some questions were difficult to make out but have been paraphrased:

Why did you choose to do this?

Colin Kaepernick: People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.

Is this something that’s evolved in your mind?

CK: It’s something that I’ve seen, I’ve felt, wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally. And it is something that’s evolved. It’s something that as I’ve gained more knowledge about, what’s gone on in this country in the past, what’s going on currently. These aren’t new situations. This isn’t new ground. There are things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed, and they need to be.

Will you continue to sit?

CK: Yes. I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.

What are some of the specific things you believe need to change?

CK: There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.

So many people see the flag as a symbol of the military. How do you view it and what do you say to those people?

CK: I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.

Do you personally feel oppressed?

CK: There have been situations where I feel like I’ve been ill-treated, yes. This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and affect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.

Is this the first year that you’ve sat during the anthem?

CK: This year’s the first year that I’ve done this.

How have your teammates responded?

CK: The support I’ve gotten from my teammates has been great. I think a lot of my teammates come from areas where this might be the situation. Their families might be put in this situation. It’s something that I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I really respect you for what you’re doing and what you’re standing for.’ So to me that’s something that I know what I’m doing was right and I know other people see what I’m doing is right, it’s something that we have to come together. We have to unite. We have to unify and make a change.

Some people have said they agree with your message, but you went about it the wrong way. What would you say to that?

CK: I don’t understand how it’s the wrong way. To me, this is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military, it’s a freedom that men and women that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by contributions they have made. So I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way. This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation is and then really affect change.

Did you expect it to become this big of a deal?

CK: It wasn’t something that I really planned as far as it blowing up. It was something that I personally decided — I just can’t stand what this represents right now. It’s not right. And the fact that it has blown up like this, I think it’s a good thing. It brings awareness. Everybody knows what’s going on and this sheds more light on it. Now I think people are really talking about it, having conversations about how to make change. What’s really going on this country. And we can move forward.

Are you concerned that this can be seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement in general?

CK: There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.

Do you plan to things beyond sitting during the national anthem, as far as activism?

CK: Yeah, most definitely. There are things that I have in the works right now that I’m working on to put together in the future and have come to fruition soon. Those are things that I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.

Any concern about the time of this and the possibility if it being a distraction?

CK: No, I don’t see it being a distraction. It’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country. If we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people. If we have these conversations, there’s a better understanding of where both sides are coming from. And if we reach common ground, and can understand what everybody’s going through, we can really affect change. And make sure that everyone is treated equally and has the same freedom.

Has anyone from the NFL or team asked you to tone it down?

CK: No. No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about. I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for looks. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have the voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful, to provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.

In your mind, have you been pulled over unjustly or had bad experiences?

CK: Yes, multiple times. I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of the house in college and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and we had guns drawn on us. Came in the house, without knocking, guns drawn on my teammates and roommates. So I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here or a one-off case there. This has become habitual. This has become a habit. So this is something that needs to be addressed.

Colin, you’re the only player in the NFL taking this stand. Why do you think you’re the only one doing this?

CK: I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this. There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation. They’re scared they might lose their job. Or they might not get the endorsements. They might not to be treated the same way. Those are things I’m prepared to handle. Things that other people might not be ready for. It’s just a matter of where you’re at in your life. Where your mind is at. At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that. I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had. And say ‘You know what? I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch.

Do you think you might get cut over this?

CK: I don’t know. But if I do, I know I did what’s right. And I can live with that at the end of the day.

Does this have anything to do with your relationship with the 49ers or the NFL?

CK: No, this is about the way people have been treated by this country.

How long did you talk when you addressed the team?

CK: It was a conversation. They asked me to talk and just explain why I did what I did and why I felt the way I felt. I had an open conversation with them; I told them why I felt that way and looked at things the way I do. A lot of it has to do with the history of the country and where we’re currently at. I opened it up to all my teammates [and said], “Come talk to me if you have any questions. If you want to understand what I’m thinking further, come talk to me.” It shouldn’t be something that should be hidden. These conversations need to happen and can bring everybody closer.

Were there people that disagreed?

CK: There were people that said, “I want to understand further. Let’s talk.” So I’ve had those conversations and will continue to have them with my teammates. It’s something that — the knowledge of what’s happened in this country and what’s currently happening, I think everybody needs to know. And when you have the knowledge of those things, you can make an educated decision on what you really feel and what you really stand for.

Is the focus going to be on football or this?

CK: No, we’re focused on football while we’re in meetings, while we’re on the field. That’s what our focus is. But in our free time, we have conversations about this. That’s not something that we should be ashamed about or shy away from. We talked about football, we handled our business there, but there’s also a social responsibility that we have to be educated on these things and talk about these things.

Did you consider trying to recruit teammates to join you?

CK: This isn’t something I’m going to ask other people to put their necks out for what I’m doing. If they agree with me and feel strongly about it, then by all means, I hope they stand with me. But I’m not going to go and try to recruit people and be like, “Hey, come do this with me” because I know the consequences that come with that and they need to make that decision for themselves.

Did you reach out to anyone to seek guidance before doing this?

CK: This is a conversation I’ve had with a lot of people a lot of times over a long period of time, so it wasn’t something that I planned on having a conversation about at a particular time. It just so happened it was the other night that people realized it and talked about it.

Any concern that the focus is on you and not the issues?

CK: I do think that the talk has been more about me, more about I know a lot of people’s initial reactions thought it was bashing the military, which it wasn’t. That wasn’t my intention at all. I think now that we have those things cleared up, we can get to the root of what I was saying and really address those issues.

Are there any other players who feel the same but are not ready to step forward publicly?

CK: Yeah, I know there’s other players that feel the same way. I’ve had other players reach out to me. Once again, it’s not something I’m going to ask them to put their necks out. I know the consequences that come along with my decision and if they feel strongly and want to stand with me, then I hope they do. If it’s something they’re not ready for, then that’s what the conversations are for and they can make that decision when they’re ready or if they’re ready.

Do you fear for your safety on road trips?

CK: Not really too concerned about that. At the end of the day, if something happens, that’s only proving my point.

Dr. Harry Edwards was at practice today, Has he been helpful?

CK: Once again, it wasn’t something I consulted anybody on. It was a conversation I had when someone asked me about it. Dr. Edwards is a good friend, he’s someone I talk to a lot and run things by and have a lot of conversations with and we have a lot of similar views.

Does the fact that this is an election year have anything to do with the timing?

CK: It wasn’t a timing thing, it wasn’t something that was planned. But I think the two presidential candidates that we currently have also represent the issues that we have in this country right now.

Can you expound on that?

CK: You have Hillary (Clinton), who has called black teens or black kids super predators. You have Donald Trump, who is openly racist. We have a presidential candidate (Clinton) who has deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me. If that was any other person, you’d be in prison. So what is this country really standing for?

It is a country that has elected a black president twice …

CK: It has elected a black president, but there are also a lot of things that haven’t changed. There are a lot of issues that still haven’t been addressed and that’s something over an eight-year term, there’s a lot of those things that are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.

What would be a success for you in the short term on this?

CK: That’s a tough question because there’s a lot of things that need to change, a lot of different issues that need to be addressed. That’s something that it’s really hard to lock down one specific thing that needs to change currently.

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