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Colin Kaepernick will donate $1 million to communities in need, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback announced Thursday.
Kaepernick stayed seated while the national anthem played before a preseason game last Friday, which he said was a protest against structural racism and police brutality. He made a similar gesture before Thursday’s preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, kneeling during the song rather than sitting.
The promised donation will take the protest a “step further,” Kaepernick said at a press conference after the game.
“It was something I was thinking about to try to make sure I am not just talking about something, but I am actively being involved and actively trying to make a change in these communities,” he said.
He did not specify which groups he would be supporting, but made clear the donations would keep with his goal of helping people of color living in distressed communities.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do,” Kaepernick said. “And I have to help these people.”
The NFL player and his girlfriend recently donated $60,000 worth of backpacks to students in the New York City neighborhoods of Harlem and the South Bronx, The Root reported. It’s not clear if this was part of the $1 million donation.
Notwithstanding the public backlash, Kaepernick’s protest seems to be gaining traction among players. Eric Reid, another 49ers player, joined him in the kneeling protest this week. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also did not stand when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before a preseason game Thursday night.
Kaepernick explained at the press conference that he decided to kneel, rather than sit, during the national anthem after he and Reid had a conversation with Nate Boyer, an NFL free agent who served as a U.S. Army Green Beret. (Boyer published an open letter to Kaepernick in The Army Times on Wednesday, reflecting on both his discomfort with Kaepernick’s gesture and his sympathy for the quarterback’s intentions.)
The players concluded that kneeling would be a “way to try to show more respect for the men and women who fight for this country.” Boyer joined the 49ers on the sidelines during the anthem at Kaepernick’s invitation.
“I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech,” Kaepernick said.
While Kaepernick has faced heated criticism from many on social media, including Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, he has also received an outpouring of support from U.S. veterans. Veterans backing Kaepernick have used #VeteransForKae