San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand at attention during the national anthem has now drawn the ire of Bay Area police.
The Santa Clara Police Officers Association has said that its officers might stop working San Francisco 49ers home games, reports KNTV.
Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem prior to the Aug. 26 game against the Green Bay Packers and he kneeled on the sideline during the anthem at the Sept. 1 game against the San Diego Chargers. Fellow teammate Eric Reid and the Seattle Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane have joined the protest.
In a letter to the 49ers, the police union wrote: "Our officers voluntarily agree to work these assignments. If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate workplace behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities."
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The union also accused Kaepernick of making “the allegation that police officers are getting paid to murder people.” The fact that he wore socks during practice that depict pigs in police uniforms also irked police.
It’s not the first time that racial tension in sports has created controversy with police who provide security at games. In July, police walked off the job during a WNBA game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Dallas Wings because the Lynx players wore black warm-up shirts to make a statement about the recent police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the subsequent sniper assassination of police officers in Dallas.
The San Francisco 49ers organization has so far defended Kaepernick's actions. In a statement, the team said: "In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."
President Barack Obama also weighed in on the controversy, as reported by KNTV: "He’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.” Regarding freedom of expression, he added: “Sometimes it's messy. But that’s how democracy works."