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You won’t find Aaron Rodgers kneeling during the national anthem this season, but in a recent interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, the Green Bay Packers’ offensive captain said he had no issue with players who choose to protest.
That includes Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who is still waiting for a job offer less than two weeks before the start of the 2017 regular season. Kaepernick drew national attention even from outside sports circles last season when he popularized the practice of not standing during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice in America.
Rodgers said it would be “ignorant” to believe that Kaepernick’s trouble finding a team had nothing to do with his activism.
“I think he should be on a roster right now,” Rodgers said. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
Rodgers said he would continue to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” but planned on supporting teammates who choose to follow Kaepernick’s example. He mentioned that conversations with two of his teammates, wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Martellus Bennett, had helped him to better understand the motives behind the protests; Bennett is the brother of the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, one of the NFL’s most prominent protesters.
“I’m gonna stand because that’s the way I feel about the flag – but I’m also 100% supportive of my teammates or any fellow players who are choosing not to,” he said. “They have a battle for racial equality. That’s what they’re trying to get a conversation started around.”
Kaepernick, Michael Bennett, and others have come under fire for their gestures, with several coaches and front-office personnel expressing distaste for what they see as disrespect to the American flag. But while Rodgers has never been shy about his patriotism, he believes the league’s black players have a unique perspective that must be recognized.
“I think the best way I can say this is: I don’t understand what it’s like to be in that situation,” he said. “What it is to be pulled over, or profiled, or any number of issues that have happened, that Colin was referencing – or any of my teammates have talked to me about … But I know it’s a real thing my black teammates have to deal with.”
It will be interesting to see whether Rodgers continues to express support for national-anthem protests – elsewhere in the ESPN interview, he said “a fear of job security” could stifle the personalities and beliefs of NFL players. Stars like Rodgers often get a longer leash, but the All-Pro signal caller is known to be a private person.
The Packers will play their final preseason game Thursday against the Los Angeles Rams. They’ll kick off their regular season on September 10, hosting the Seattle Seahawks.