Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera defended the right of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick to sit during the national anthem, but didn’t endorse the decision.
Speaking after Monday’s practice, Rivera said its Kaepernick’s First Amendment right to sit in protest during the national anthem, which Kaepernick has done for each of the three exhibitions and plans to do for the foreseeable future. But Rivera said Kaepernick has that right because of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed before him.
“Our guys know they’re supposed to stand at attention at the line,” Rivera said. “Again, the national anthem is a very personal thing for me, obviously for specific reasons – my father and my mother’s family and their service to this country. And that’s why I stand.
“It is something that I think … it has to be personal for each person. Again that’s what this country is based on, freedoms. You have the right to do what you want to do because that’s what those men and women fought for and sacrificed for and we should be grateful that.”
Kaepernick told NFL.com this weekend that he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Rivera didn’t consider the hypothetical question of what he’d do if one of his players sat, saying they’d cross that bridge when they got there.
Panthers safety Tre Boston said he’s not offended by Kaepernick’s decision to sit and wondered if change will come from it.
“If we’re going to start somewhere in America with change, maybe it starts there,” Boston said. “You never know. It takes one man to stand up for – and not everybody’s going to be OK with (a) stance. That’s the problem these days – everybody’s offended by this or that. But that’s all him. It’s his right.”
Rivera’s father, Eugenio, served in the Army. Rivera is closely tied with the USO, and his father’s Army pin and a game-worn camoflouge Panthers hat were sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last fall.
In 2015, the Panthers became the NFL’s first Purple Heart team.
“It could be (considered offensive),” Rivera said of Kaepernick’s decision to sit. “It depends on your outlook and how you look at things. That’s a personal thing. And I think we all have to make our own decisions and decide what they are. You guys know exactly where I stand.”
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.