"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media after Friday night's game against the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara, Calif. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
The 49ers acknowledged in a statement that Kaepernick sat during the national anthem.
"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony," the 49ers statement said. "It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."
The NFL issued a statement Saturday in response to the controversy.
"Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem," the NFL statement said.
NFL Media reported that Kaepernick has sat during the anthem in "at least one other preseason game."
Pro Football Talk first reported that Kaepernick did not stand during the anthem. He was not asked by reporters about his decision during his postgame news conference, which was held prior to the PFT report.
The 28-year-old Kaepernick said he did not tell the team he was planning to protest during the national anthem.
"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," Kaepernick told NFL Media. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."
Kaepernick, who is battling Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback job, made his preseason debut against the Packers after missing the first two preseason games due to tightness in his right shoulder. He was 2-of-6 passing for 14 yards and added 18 yards on four carries in the 49ers' 21-10 loss.
Gabbert started and went 2 of 3 for 14 yards and added 15 yards on two runs on his two possessions.