San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest has been applauded by two iconic U.S. Olympians who raised their fists in the black power salute while standing on a podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
Tommie Smith, 72, and John Carlos, 71, have praised Kaepernick’s protest against race relations and police brutality in the U.S. nearly 50 years after the two Olympians were publicly ostracized for their protest at the Summer Games.
“He’s pushing for the same thing we pushed for 48 years ago, which is more dialogue and discussion,” Carlos said in an interview with New York Daily News. “Let’s talk about the issues rather than talk around the issues. He has a tremendous amount of courage.”
The bi-racial quarterback refused to stand for the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday night.
Citing race relations and police brutality in the U.S., Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem sparking outcry over the weekend. On Sunday, he said he will continue his protest until he sees significant progress in the U.S.
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said Sunday at his locker. “To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
WATCH: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is coming under fire for refusing to stand during the U.S. national anthem during NFL games.
On Monday, Kaepernick reiterated the fact that he has no plans to stand for the anthem anytime soon.
Speaking with USA Today on Tuesday, the U.S. Olympian said the football player is ‘bringing the truth out.’
“Colin is 28 years old and realizing that things are not quite like what ‘they’ said it would be,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s just speaking out (but) he used a platform that many Americans don’t agree with.
“He’s being vilified in how he brings the truth out,” Smith said. “I support him because he’s bringing the truth out – regardless of how done. If it’s not done violently, at least he should be heard,” the Olympian said.
Current and former NFL greats have spoken out against the quarterback, saying Kaepernick’s way of going about things is wrong.
New Orleans’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees tweeted Monday, “I agree with his protest, I DON’T agree w his METHOD.”
Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday that while he can “respect” Kaepernick’s cause, he doesn’t “agree with the method he chose.”
“If you want to make a point or take a stand, go straight after the root of that cause,” wrote Ward. “Don’t disrespect the whole country or the organization that’s paying you millions of dollars.”
However, the 1968 bronze medallist disagrees and sees a similarity in Kaepernick’s protest with other civil rights activists.
“I equate him with Rosa Parks,” Carlos told the New York Daily News. “He risked a whole bunch of money to stand behind the symbolism of why Rosa Parks stayed seated on that bus.”
Kaepernick has one more exhibition game Thursday before the team announces its starting quarterback for the upcoming regular season.
–with a file from the Associated Press