Ravens' Head Coach John Harbaugh talks about San Francisco 49ers' quaterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the national anthem. (Jeff Zrebiec/Baltimore Sun video)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem has inflamed both sides of the argument. What can't be debated is Kaepernick's right to make that decision, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh and former Navy quarterback and current Ravens rookie wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.
"I'm grateful for the right to express my displeasure," Harbaugh said after Monday's practice. "That's what Colin chose to do, and it's certainly his right to do it. I know Colin through [brother and former 49ers coach] Jim [Harbaugh], and of course, when he was out here [for a scrimmage in August 2014 between the two teams]. I probably met him two or three times, talked to him. He comes from a great family. He's been brought up the right way. Good people who care about him and love him and he reflects that in how successful he's been. I know Jim really likes him a lot. I respect him, respect his choice, whatever it is."
Reynolds, who had his military service deferred by the Department of Defense in May after the franchise used a sixth-round pick on him in the NFL draft, said separately that it is Kaepernick's "prerogative" to do what he wants during the anthem.
"Every American is afforded that right by the First Amendment," Reynolds said, adding that former Midshipmen teammate and current New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona called him over the weekend in anticipation of being asked to comment on the Kaepernick situation. "So it is what it is. That said, I'm proud of what the flag represents, the people who came before us and defended our country so that we can play football, so that we can live freely and make our own choices. I was a part of the service, and I understand what that sacrifice is like having talked to so many veterans who have been through the thick of war and sacrificed limbs and lives to keep us safe."
Kaepernick might have had company if not for an apparent change of heart. Philadelphia Eagles rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres told ESPN he planned to sit during the playing of the anthem before the team's preseason finale against the New York Jets on Thursday to protest the treatment of people of color in America. Asked again about it Monday, Tavarres told a local Philadelphia reporter that he will stand for the anthem.
Harbaugh said no one should "mock, or make fun, or belittle anybody else's opinion" and applauded Kaepernick's courage for taking a stand. But he also emphasized reviewing the potential consequences of any public gesture before making it.
"I tell our guys, if you're going to say something publicly, think about it," he said. "Make sure you really believe that because when you speak out there, it's out there, and it belongs to you now. The other part of it is, we're a team, and anything we do, you respect our team, our organization and the other players, and you respect the mission that we're on and what we're trying to accomplish.
"None of us ever want to do anything that's going to detract or disrespect the efforts of all the other players on the football team. That's the balance that all of us have to strike when we speak out about something like that, or anything that we do, whether it's choices that we make off the field, in our family life. We've had that experience here with guys making mistakes in their private life as well, and doing wrong things in their private life as well. Those are things that definitely do not help the cause."