Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — When Monday Night Football returns Monday, Colin Kaepernick is expected to kneel during the national anthem on what would be his biggest stage to date, furthering a highly visible though mostly silent protest movement among NFL players that the 49ers quarterback started.
Kaepernick’s San Francisco team plays host to the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams Monday at 7:20 p.m. (local time). The match rekindles an NFL rivalry dormant since 1995, when the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis. But before the game gets underway, all eyes will once again be on Kaepernick, who is expected to kneel during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in what he has said is a protest against America’s treatment of people of color.
The quarterback’s influence on other players was on full display Sunday during the NFL’s opening weekend, as other NFLers made gestures of solidarity and unity.
But the protest movement has critics, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who on Monday suggested that NFL players were dishonoring the flag and advised fans not to buy certain merchandise as a result of the protests.
“Here’s a peaceful protest: never buy another shoe, shirt, or jersey of rich spoiled athletes who dishonor our flag,” Cruz said on Twitter in response to ABC analyst and former NBA star Jalen Rose, who tweeted praise of the demonstrations.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Marcus Peters; the Tennessee Titans’ Jurrell Casey, Wesley Woodyard and Jason McCourty; and New England Patriots’ Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett each raised their fists during the anthem. Four Miami Dolphins players knelt, including four-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster.
And players from the Seattle Seahawks locked arms during the anthem at the start of their Sunday game, as did Chiefs’ players.
A few days earlier, on Thursday, Brandon Marshall, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, knelt during the song as a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick.
The Chiefs’ Peters told the press Friday that he salutes Kaepernick whose protest, he said, is for “a great cause.”
Foster of the Dolphins similarly told the press that Kaepernick was raising urgent issues.
“They say it’s not the time to do this. Well, when is the time?” Foster said following the Dolphins game Sunday night. “It’s never the time in somebody else’s eyes because they’ll always feel like it’s good enough. And some people don’t.”
Brandon Marshall, who happens to be facing scrutiny for laying a brutal-looking hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last week, told the media that he is joining Kaepernick to “create dialogue.”
“I’m not against the military, police or America. I’m against social injustice,” Marshall told the media after Thursday’s game against the Panthers.
Marshall echoed Kaepernick’s promise that he will continue to kneel during the anthem throughout this season.
Kaepernick, whose protest was first noticed by the public in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, had received demonstrations of support during the preseason from some other players including Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and Marshall.
But Sunday’s games represented the largest demonstration of solidarity to date, giving a political subtext to the opening of the NFL season.
One result has been that sales of Kaepernick’s jerseys have soared on NFL.com.
Forty-niners coach Chip Kelly announced that Kaepernick will serve as the team’s backup quarterback at Monday night’s game, behind starter Blaine Gabbert.
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