San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick heard plenty of boos Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y., as he started his first game of the season, but some 2,600 miles away, fans in his hometown of Turlock backed his right to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
Nearly two dozen fans gathered Sunday morning at Hauck’s Grill in downtown Turlock to watch football – including the San Francisco-Buffalo Bills game – on several big-screen TVs mounted on the walls and had plenty to say about Kaepernick, the Pitman High School graduate.
Kaepernick has become the center of controversy since he started in the preseason not to stand during the national anthem to bring attention to the mistreatment of people of color by police. He first sat during the anthem but now kneels, as he did Sunday.
“He has a right to do it and I support that right,” said Donald Pack, who was at Hauck’s with his best friend, Darrell Leaman. “I don’t agree with it, but it’s his right to do it. ... He’s gotten a conversation started, a conversation we do need to have. Absolutely, we need to have this conversation.”
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Leaman said he is patriotic and would always stand during the anthem but appreciates that Kaepernick’s protest has focused more attention on police brutality. “There is unnecessary brutality in law enforcement,” he said, “and there should be consequences (for those officers) when appropriate. The police should not be policing themselves (when investigating brutality allegations).”
Kaepernick’s protest of the anthem has spread to other athletes and in other sports.
Turlock resident Marty Theiss said he was at California State University, Stanislaus, a couple of weeks ago to watch a volleyball game and a couple of players on the opposing team from Humboldt State University did not stand during the anthem. He said he scanned the crowd for any signs of displeasure or disappointment but did not see any.
“It’s America,” said Theiss, who was watching football with his two sons and a friend at Hauck’s. “It’s up to (Kaepernick) to decide how he wants to protest.”
But Theiss’ sons – 13-year-old Mike and 10-year-old Nick – disagreed. They thought Kaepernick was being disrespectful to the military and veterans by not standing when the anthem is played. “I think it’s stupid and disrespectful,” Mike said. Theiss said his sons have the right to disagree but added their opinions may change as they get older and experience more of the world.
Tammy Warren – who was watching football with boyfriend Tom Whitfield – said it’s important to remember the national anthem is for all of us, not just those who are in or have served in the military.
Not everyone at Hauck’s supported Kaepernick, but they declined to be interviewed. The reaction to Kaepernick in Sunday’s game also was mixed, according to news accounts, with some fans supporting him.
Merced resident and 49ers fan Rosie Diaz said that while Kaepernick has the right to focus public attention on injustice, he should not use the national anthem to do that. “He should stand,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316