While all three network morning shows on Monday acknowledged the “controversy” and “outrage” swirling around 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the National Anthem, the broadcasts still framed the disrespectful act as him taking a “stand” to “protest racism in America.”
On NBC’s Today, fill-in co-host Carson Daly teased the story: “Still to come, star-spangled controversy. NFL star Colin Kaepernick speaks out for the first time about why he’s standing up for sitting down.” During the report minutes later, correspondent Jo Ling Kent proclaimed: “Colin Kaepernick is no stranger to controversy, protesting police violence and racial injustice frequently on social media. Now he's taken a stand again by refusing to stand during the National Anthem, angering some fans and fellow players.”
The segment was loaded with soundbites from Kaepernick ranting in defense of actions: “There's people being murdered unjustly and not held being accountable. Cops are getting paid leave for killing people.”
After noting that “disciplinary action” against Kaepernick by the NFL was “unlikely,” Kent declared: “Kaepernick willing to take the risk to stand up for what he believes in.” Another clip ran of the football player: “I can't look in the mirror and see other people dying on the street and say, ‘You know what, I can live with myself.’” Kent concluded: “Kaepernick says he will continue to refuse to stand during the National Anthem going forward until he says things in this country change.”
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At the top of ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos announced: “Superstar quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparks outrage, refusing to stand during the National Anthem to protest racism in America.” In the later report, correspondent Ryan Smith telling viewers: “Colin Kaepernick is speaking out about his protest and he’s not backing down with fans by the thousands attacking him online for refusing to stand....The quarterback saying he’s – by sitting down, he’s standing up for what he thinks needs to change.”
Like Today, the report featured multiple Kaepernick soundbites. Smith explained: “The 28-year-old, frequently outspoken on civil rights issues online, seemingly began his protest weeks earlier, sitting during the Anthem for the team's previous two preseason games, though few seemed to notice. But after Friday's game, outrage, thousands flooding his Twitter page with comments.”
Wrapping up the segment, the reporter treated Kaepernick like a martyr: “But when asked if this will get him cut from the team, the quarterback says he doesn't know, adding that if he's cut, he feels he did what he feels is right and he can live with that at the end of the day.”
Stephanopoulos then discussed the topic with ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, who objected to Kaepernick’s form of protest, but largely defended the athlete:
Well, I understand it and I respect it. I respectfully disagree with how he went about doing it because it's certainly not something that I would have done. But at the same time, we also have to understand that the First Amendment to our Constitution is, you know, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and that's one of the things that he exercised here. He wanted to make a point.
And as Mark Cuban pointed out, he didn't – you know, he didn't plant a bomb, he didn't shoot anybody. He didn't do anything. He made a silent protest. He's an unabashed supporter of Black Lives Matter. He addressed the issue of police brutality as an incentive as to why he was taking the position that he took. We understand it, and you know, a lot of people within the black community I can tell you for a fact absolutely agree with him. A lot of people don't agree with how he went about doing it.
After Stephanopoulos wondered if the offensive display was a “distraction,” Smith replied: “People who are against the positions that these athletes take will always find an excuse to say that it is a distraction....the mere fact that it's being debated or people are questioning whether or not it's a distraction, what you're saying to yourself is, is it not supposed to be a distraction?”
Leading off CBS This Morning, fill-in co-host Demarco Morgan touted: “And 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he will continue to sit down at the national anthem. His stand has a fierce debate online and in the NFL.” Introducing the later report, fellow fill-in co-host Josh Elliott hyped: “San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says that he will now continue to sit through the national anthem at NFL games until he sees significant change in American race relations.”
Correspondent Jeff Glor noted: “This isn't the first time that Colin Kaepernick has spoken out. His social media pages are filled with posts in the past, but this wasn't online. It was on the field.” In addition to the numerous clips of Kaepernick that were played, a soundbite was also featured from liberal New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden, who ran defense for the QB:
Kaepernick has been criticized for his methods. When you are faced with a crisis, a crisis of police activity in communities in which you came and you feel defenseless, you’ve got to let people know that you object. There’s never a good time to protest. There’s never a right way to protest and that’s just the reality.