ESPN's Max Kellerman, co-host of "First Take," said on his show this week that the NFL is "injecting politics" into football by playing the national anthem before games.
Kellerman made the comment while defending former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem before games as a form of protest. Following a season highlighted by his controversial decision not to stand for the "Star-Spangled Banner," Kaepernick became a free agent and has not signed with any of the NFL's 32 teams for the upcoming season, CBS Sports reported.
While discussing Kaepernick's continued free-agent status, Kellerman suggested that it's the NFL, not the 29-year-old athlete, who is to blame for no teams wanting to sign Kaepernick for the 2017-18 season.
"Colin Kaepernick, also, did not go looking for a protest. It came to him. He was asked to stand for the national anthem," Kellerman said.
"You do not have to stand for the national anthem and even it was a rule that you did, is that Colin Kaepernick injecting politics into the NFL? No, that's the NFL injecting politics by playing the national anthem and putting pressure on you to stand for it in the first place," Kellerman said.
Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett suggested during a radio interview this week that the NFL may be retaliating against Kaepernick for rubbing many of its fans the wrong way.
"Obviously, all the stuff to do with the issues, I think nobody likes race and politics in sports. I think it's one of the things that nobody really wants to talk about. For him [Kaepernick] to bring up race and politics in sports, I think it struck a lot of people in the wrong way," Bennett told "The Breakfast Club" morning show on New York City's WWPR-FM.
"You watch the people that really watch football, it's middle America, and the people that buy tickets to the game aren't really African-American people, and for him to bring that into that crowd was one thing that people felt like shouldn't have been there," Bennett said, adding that he thinks the NFL is "blackballing" Kaepernick.