SAN DIEGO — As he was walking off the field at Qualcomm Stadium, Colin Kaepernick’s ears perked up and his head swiveled just before he reached the tunnel leading to the visitor’s locker room. He planted like he was trying to avoid a linebacker, made a hard right turn and raced to the edge of the stands. “You’re the voice for us,” he shouted.While Kaepernick, at ease and engaged, worked his way among a couple hundred fans, it was clear that he was among his people — and not just because so many were wearing San Francisco 49ers gear. They were mostly Latino, Asian and black.
“A lot of those people are people that I want to give equal opportunities to,” Kaepernick said.
It was not the only hard pivot Kaepernick had hoped to effect Thursday night. He also wanted to redirect the narrative stemming from his recent refusal to stand for the national anthem. What began as a gesture to protest police brutality and social injustice had careened into a national debate on everything but that.
Instead, the question being asked was whether Kaepernick was disparaging the sacrifices made by the military.
Kaepernick warming up on Thursday for his first game since his gesture of protest last week.CreditDenis Poroy/Associated Press
So, on Thursday night, in his team’s final exhibition game before the start of the N.F.L. season, Kaepernick took a knee instead of a seat during “The Star-Spangled Banner” — along with his teammates Eric Reid and Nate Boyer, a former member of the Army’s Green Berets.
Also, Kaepernick announced afterward that he would donate the first million of his $11.9 million salary for this season to charitable organizations and that he was open to speaking to students at the San Francisco Police Department academy.
“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick said. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.”