Colin Kaepernick may not be able to shake off being the NFL's most reviled player to patriotic Americans after this NFL season ends. The 49ers quarterback's political stance has garnered the vitriol of his former coaches, fans, sports icons, and even his own birth mother Heidi Russo.
After U.S. Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris took a shot at Kaepernick during his speech about the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks on Wednesday, Kaepernick's surrogate parents had heard enough from the public, and finally decided to break their silence to support their son.
In a statement to ESPN's The Undefeated on Friday, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick explained their own initial shock when Colin began his National Anthem protest in August during the NFL's preseason. "When Colin first 'took a knee,' his family was as surprised as anyone," Kaepernick's parents said. They added, "We did not understand why he was doing this and were overwhelmed with the public reaction and hate."
Both Teresa and Rick knew the backlash that would ensue from their son's actions. They continued:
"Colin is carrying a heavy load and following a difficult path that he truly believes in. He is putting his entire future and possibly his life on the line for those beliefs. As his parents, it pains us to read articles and tweets saying that his family does not support him; this could not be further from the truth. We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and admire his strength and courage in kneeling for the rights of others."
Kaepernick's parents also mentioned that they received plenty of hate mail with racial remarks as well.
"Colin not only received terrible racist tweets, but also received letters directly to our home similar to that recently received by (Broncos LB) Brandon Marshall," the wrote. "We were truly shocked at the amount of racist hatred out there! Until this had occurred, we had naively believed that the racial atmosphere in this country was far better than it actually is. Prayer and talks with our son gave us a much better understanding of the reason for his protest and how we should view it."
They denounced the dig that Admiral Harry Harris took at their son, as well as the perception that Colin's actions reflect his views on the U.S. military.
"Colin has chosen to kneel for the national anthem as a protest to the continuing racial inequality in this country," they said. "He has explained his reasons for this in multiple interviews, yet it seems some people still do not understand his point. For whatever reason, there are some who want to view this as an anti-military protest or an un-American stance. These views could not be further from the truth, but we know that people will believe what they wish to believe. The recent remarks (attacks) by Admiral Harris supported by the Pentagon are over the top, and we feel the desire to make a public statement in support of our son."