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Niners QB Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team’s bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media .

“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 said. “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 issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick’s stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony,” the team 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.”

Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents. He has been outspoken on his Twitter account on civil rights issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kaepernick is not the first U.S.-based athlete to use the anthem for protest. In 1996, NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem, saying the United States had a history of tyranny and doing so would conflict with his Islamist beliefs. The NBA initially suspended Abdul-Rauf for his stance before it was lifted when he said he would stand and pray silently during the song.

Kaepernick said he is not worried about any potential fallout from his protest.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he 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.”

The NFL and Kaepernick’s agent did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kaepernick is in competition to win back the starting quarterback job in San Francisco that he lost to Blaine Gabbert last season. He made his first appearance of the preseason on Friday night after missing two games with a tired shoulder. He finished 2 for 6 for 14 yards and added 18 yards on four runs.

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AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Bills Ryan says standing for anthem pays respect to military

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan believes standing for the national anthem is a way for NFL players and coaches to show respect and give thanks to members of the armed forces.

“You’ve got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country,” Ryan said before practice on Sunday. “And I think that’s an opportunity right there just to show respect.”

He was asked his opinion a day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he is refusing to stand for the anthem because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Without specifically mentioning Kaepernick, Ryan said he can appreciate how some players have personal or religious beliefs that lead them to not stand for the anthem.

“Any time when I talk to our team about that, if there’s personal beliefs or whatever that keeps you from doing it, then I understand,” he said.

However, Ryan added, he encourages his players to stand for the anthem, and to do so as a team in a straight line along the sideline.

“That’s kind of our way of giving thanks,” Ryan said. “It’s an important thing for me.”

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Vernon Davis hopes to play a role in Super Bowl with Broncos

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Vernon Davis got to sleep at home for a night in the Bay Area, stay in the same hotel where he lived during 49ers training camp last summer, and the equipment staff even promised him his old locker at Levi’s Stadium this weekend.

No matter that he might play a bit part in this Super Bowl for the Denver Broncos, Davis is back where he has made a home for more than a decade and ready to win a championship ring after coming up just short three years ago with San Francisco.

It just so happened he arrived Sunday for Super Bowl week on his 32nd birthday, too.

“It hasn’t been that long since I left here, so it kind of seems like I was just here,” said Davis, who was traded from the 49ers to the Broncos on Nov. 2. “I’ll look around a little bit and get a gauge on things and I’ll come to the realization that I’m actually playing in the Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.”

The veteran tight end has had discussions with many a teammate already on the importance that they “just stay together, just stay in this moment, and don’t get caught up on the outside because the moment you do there’s a lot of risk.”

Davis didn’t even have plans to stop by the Jamba Juice store he owns.

He would love nothing more than to leave his mark on this Super Bowl, somehow. Even if he has played all of 11 snaps this postseason with one target and no catches.

“You haven’t seen me but there’s a chance that you could see me,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m all about faith, anything could happen just like that. The moment it does, I have to take advantage of my opportunities. They will come. … I’m a patient guy and I’m ready whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

Davis’ short time in the offense – and playing with two different quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and backup Brock Osweiler – made for a challenging transition to his new team.

According to Football Perspective, Davis is one of just four players to have competed in home games on the Super Bowl field during the regular season then return for the championship game with a different team.

For Davis, that three-point loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season has stuck with him – just as it has for many of his former 49ers teammates.

“It just weighs heavy on you when you make it to the Super Bowl and you can’t pull off the victory,” Davis said. “It’s not a good feeling at all. I stressed that to some of my teammates, I wanted to make them aware of what it can feel like if things didn’t go our way – just give them that fire and that motivation.”

He has watched Manning so intently the past couple of months to learn whatever he can from the five-time NFL MVP, noting, “I even picked the seat beside him in the team meeting room just to get his energy.”

Davis matched his career high with 13 touchdown receptions in 2013, and believes he can still be that dominant again. He has had tough stretches before when he didn’t get as many chances as he’d like.

When someone suggested that Sunday might be his final game, Davis chuckled, “Oh, come on, man, no way, no way.”

“As long as I can run a 4.3 or a 4.4 I’m going to continue to play the game. When that leaves, then I’ll stop playing,” said Davis, who is still running a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. “I’m leaving on my own terms, most definitely.”

Davis’ experience in big games and athleticism is a big reason Denver acquired him.

“He’s brought that,” general manager John Elway said. “Obviously, the play time’s been up and down, but he’s made some big catches for us. He came in in a short window, too, so trying to get him comfortable with the offense, what we’re doing, and also it was right around the time that Brock started and came in. He’s always there, he’s always a threat and the defense always has to worry about him.”

Davis has been providing his share of insight already about how it felt to come so close and lose on the NFL’s biggest stage. His versatility also has allowed the Broncos to run more two- and three-tight end sets.

“Vernon’s a heck of a player. We came in together `06 class, so 10 years in the game for him,” Broncos tight end Owen Daniels said. “A ton of playoff experience, Super Bowl experience, that can’t be overlooked in terms of being able to relay that to guys and kind of alert us to what might be going on during the week. He lives around the corner from here. He’s great for this week specifically. He’s been a great addition to our team.”