SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With quarterback Colin Kaepernick set to appear on the cover of Time magazine, San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly spoke for the first time at length Thursday about why he believes what Kaepernick is doing is important.
Previously Kelly had mostly stuck to saying that he and the team respected Kaepernick's right to speak his mind, but with Kaepernick's protest of racial inequality and oppression in the United States picking up momentum across the league and the country, Kelly offered further support.
"I think it's an issue -- you look at what's gone on in Tulsa and Charlotte the last two nights -- it's an issue that's at the forefront of our country and it needs to be addressed and needs to be taken care of because what's going on is not right," Kelly said. "I think, again, he's shedding light on a situation that is heinous and shouldn't happen in this country. We all have inalienable rights as a citizen of this country and they're being violated, and that's what I think Colin is standing up for."
The cover of the Oct. 3 issue of Time reads "The Perilous Fight" followed by "National anthem protests led by Colin Kaepernick are fueling a debate about privilege, pride and patriotism."
Kelly also emphasized that Kaepernick's protest has not trickled into his preparation or had an adverse impact on the way he goes about his business when working.
"When he's here, he's doing football," Kelly said. "When we're here from 8:15 when we get here in the morning until 5 when we leave, he's at every meeting, he's done everything, there hasn't been anything. 'Hey, Coach I need time because I've got this going on' -- he hasn't done that. He understands what his job is and he's balanced it really well, and I think he's managed it really well. He's focused, he's dialed in when we're at practice."
Asked whether he thought it was appropriate for Kaepernick to speak about social issues after a game, Kelly said he doesn't mind.
"When he's asked a question, I think he should answer what his feelings are on those questions," Kelly said. "If you don't think that's the thing then maybe you shouldn't ask him those questions."
On Tuesday, Kaepernick revealed that he's received death threats via "multiple avenues" and said anyone acting on such threats would only be proving his point. He also said he will donate $100,000 per week for the next 10 weeks to organizations focused on helping communities in need.
Kaepernick said he has been encouraged by the amount of support he's received from other athletes and people around the country.
"I think other people are picking up on the protest and speaking out about it, from high school to activists to pro athletes," Kaepernick said. "I think it's huge and I think the more conversation continues between those communities, more and more solutions will come up on how to fix this and the best way to fix it as quickly as possible. I think that's important and ultimately the goal."