Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick's one-time coach on the San Francisco 49ers and one of the player's biggest supporters, clarified his comments Monday after saying he does not respect the quarterback's decision to sit during the national anthem at games.
Harbaugh, who left the 49ers to coach football at the University of Michigan last year, was asked by reporters Monday to comment on the Kaepernick controversy, MLive.com reported.
"I acknowledge his right to do that," Harbaugh said, according to MLive.com. "But I don't respect the motivation or the action."
Harbaugh followed up his comment later, saying he supports Kaepernick's motivation but not the method.
Kaepernick created a firestorm Friday when he refused to stand for the national anthem during an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers, and he later explained his reasoning to NFL.com.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he 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 NFL said afterward the league encourages but does not mandate players stand during the national anthem. The 49ers issued a statement as well, according to NFL.com.
"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. 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 and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem," the team said.
Kaepernick's actions created a backlash among fans and fellow NFL players.
"Obviously, what he meant to do was in a good place," Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman in a statement, according to NBC Sports. "He wanted to make a stand, anytime you don't stand during the national anthem people are going to criticize it. That's the unfortunate part of it, you can't ever stand against the flag and things like that, a lot of people sacrifice and things like that for it, but there is also a deeper meaning to what he did."
Harbaugh coached the 49ers when they drafted Kaepernick out of the University of Nevada in 2011. A year later, the coach installed him as the starting quarterback as the team advanced to the Super Bowl, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
Jemele Hill, of ESPN, questioned Harbaugh's apology in a tweet.
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