Thursday night’s preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers will be interesting to watch, but not really for the football.
Many will tune in at 10 p.m. ET to see what happens when the national anthem plays at the game billed as the 28th Annual Salute to the Military.
Will 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick continue his protest of the US flag by sitting during the anthem? That anthem, by the way, will be performed by Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell from the US Navy.
And how will the crowd react to whatever Kaepernick decides to do?
The quarterback has said he’ll again refuse to stand, just as he’s done for the first three preseason games, saying he will not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Kaepernick is expected to start Thursday night’s game in San Diego.
On Tuesday, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly said that he will rest quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is the presumptive favorite to be named the starter for Week 1. Kaepernick had been limited this preseason because of tightness in his throwing shoulder. Additionally, he had an extended layoff, recovering from surgery in November on his non-throwing shoulder.
“We feel like the bulk of work for what he needs to do we’ve got a good understanding of where Blaine is,” Kelly said. “And unfortunately because of Colin’s injury and missing those first two preseason games, he’s only got 13 snaps. So, we’ve got to move forward and see if we can get him some more snaps here.”
But a big question heading into Thursday night isn’t about Kaepernick’s shoulder. It’s how he’ll be received by the crowd.
According to The Mercury News, Kaepernick said Tuesday he doesn’t fear for his safety.
“No, because if something happened, you’d be proving my point,” Kaepernick said, according to the report.
He later said, “I knew what I was walking into. That’s why it’s a sacrifice.”
Chargers to celebrate the military
As was previously scheduled, the Chargers will celebrate their annual salute to the military Thursday, paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of current and retired military personnel who live and work in San Diego.
The Marine Band San Diego will perform pregame along with the Frog X parachute team, featuring retired Navy SEALs who will float down into Qualcomm Stadium.
According to a statement from the team, 240 sailors, Marines and soldiers will present a US Super Flag and service emblems from all branches of service during the national anthem, and color guards from the Navy, Marine Corps and Army will present the flag.
“At halftime the Chargers will recognize six Vietnam War veterans as a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the war and will also have wounded warriors as special guests and a patriotic fireworks show to wrap up halftime.
“At the start of the third quarter, Petty officer 1st Class Steven Powell will return to the field where he will perform “God Bless America,” the Chargers statement said.
Amid the controversy over Kaepernick’s protest, members of the military and veterans have taken to social media using the hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick in support.
Sunny Anderson, Food Network personality and a veteran tweeted: “I took an oath & served, so players on a team I don’t even like could have freedom of speech.”
‘It’s his right as a citizen’
Kelly said Tuesday he hopes to name a starter sometime after the Chargers game. He also said that Kaepernick is one of the best two quarterbacks on the roster.
“My dealings with Colin since April is when he’s here, he’s all about ball and he’s been great with that,” Kelly said. “So, that’s what I deal with, and that’s how we interact, and he’s been great. You guys watch him. When he’s not in, he’s mirroring the quarterback. He’s getting as many mental reps as he can. He obviously had a setback in camp because of the shoulder, but from a football standpoint, he’s been excellent.”
As for not standing for the national anthem, Kelly said he didn’t ask Kaepernick his reasoning for it.
“No, and it’s his right as a citizen,” Kelly said.