SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Colin Kaepernick knocked down rumors that he has converted to Islam and that his girlfriend, who is Muslim, led him to protest social injustices by refusing to stand for the national anthem. He tweaked presidential candidate Donald Trump in the process.
“I have great respect for the religion, know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people,’’ Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers’ backup quarterback, said Wednesday. “But I think that (rumor of conversion) comes along with people’s fear of this protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country. People are terrified of them to the point where Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous.”
Kaepernick also addressed reports that he’s been heavily influenced by girlfriend Nessa Diab, a radio host.
“The impact is just conversations that we constantly have,’’ he said. “This is an open discussion that I have with many people, not just my woman. She is Muslim, her family is Muslim, I have great respect for them. I have great respect for people’s right to believe what they want to believe. And I don’t think anybody should be prosecuted for judged based on what their beliefs all.’’
Kaepernick suggested oppression is deterring some NFL players from speaking out in support of his decision to protest.
“I think there are a lot of players that feel the same way,’’ Kaepernick said Wednesday. “They’re just nervous about consequences that come with it and a lot of them have families to feed, and I think that’s a tragic situation where players aren’t comfortable speaking what’s really on their mind and what’s right because they’re afraid of consequences that come along with it.
“That’s not an ideal for anybody and I think it also speaks to the oppression and culture that we have here where if you don’t fall in line then we’re going to get you out.’’
Last Thursday, 49ers safety Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem before the 49ers game against the San Diego Chargers. Jeremy Lane, a defensive back with the Seattle Seahawks, sat during the anthem before the Seahawks’ game against the Oakland Raiders.
The 49ers play the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Sept. 12, but Kaepernick said he would have no qualms kneeling during the national anthem had San Francisco been scheduled to play Sunday, the 15-year anniversary of 9/11.
“Once again, this isn’t a protest against men and women of the military,” Kaepernick said Wednesday, noting he has talked about his protest with former Green Beret Nate Boyer and Sgt. Johnny “Joey” Jones, a retired military bomb technician who lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan. “I have great respect for them.’’
Kaepernick added, “People are getting lost in what the true message is and don’t want to address what ii really is and address the issues, and that’s really the problem. I wish people would be as outraged about the murders that are happening in the street as they are the protest.’’