Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback is refusing to stand for the American national anthem in protest at the treatment of racial minorities.
He sat on the bench when the national anthem was being played before an exhibition match against the Green Bay Packers.
Kaepernick, who is on a six year contract worth $114 million (£87 million) explained his decision in an interview with NFL Media.
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour, 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 playing of the US national anthem is standard practice before major sporting events and Kaepernick’s gesture, while not on the scale of the 1968 Olympics Black Power protests, will nevertheless anger a lot of sport fans.
Many voiced their distaste on Twitter, accusing him of hypocrisy.
One said Kaepernick had the right to make a total fool of himself and his sponsors had the right to drop him.
Another ridiculed his protests against oppression in a country that paid him more in a day than most people earned in a year.
There was some support, with one Twitter user saying the backlash showed that a lot of Americans believed the country belonged to them and others should be grateful.
The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony, the 49ers said in a statement.
It is an opportunity to honour 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 recognise the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.
News Source TelegraphNews