The Santa Clara Police Officers' Association on Thursday went back on their earlier statement suggesting that officers would not work San Francisco 49ers home games if no action was taken against Colin Kaepernick for protesting national law enforcement by refusing to stand for the national anthem.
In a letter addressed to Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, the union said it would "encourage and support our officers to continue to voluntarily work at 49ers games." The letter was in response to Gillmor's appeal to officers to continue to voluntarily participate in overseeing the games. She said that the act of sitting out the games would be "misinterpreted by the public" as the officers would be seen "as taking sides in a debate that is more complex and important than a football game."
While commending Gillmor for acknowledging the issue, the union expressed disappointment with the lack of response from local leaders as well as with the 49ers management for "ignoring" their concerns with Kaepernick.
Kaepernick has taken a knee or sat through the national anthem during the team's pre-season games, generating a wave of boos from the audience and criticism from fans. Kaepernick has said he is protesting against what he described as the oppression of minorities in the country, particularly those who have died at the hands of police.
In a letter sent to the 49ers earlier this month, the union had told the team that unless they take action against Kaepernick, officers may not work the games at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
"This statement is obviously insulting, inaccurate, and completely unsupported by any facts," the letter read.
The union stated it had a responsibility to protect its members, who work for the Santa Clara Police Department, from "harassing behavior."
"Our officers voluntarily agree to work these assignments," the statement read. "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."
However, the police chief in Santa Clara, California, had vowed that his officers would continue to patrol and secure home games for the 49ers.
In Thursday's letter, the union criticized the police chief saying his statements "confused" their issues and that he was "more concerned about appearing to do something rather than actually educating the public about the facts."
According to a report from NBC Bay Area, the police department provides about 70 officers to the stadium during home games.
In a statement last week, Santa Clara Police Chief Michael J. Sellers said he will work to ensure officers "continue to provide a safe environment" at the stadium.
Many of us in the law enforcement community have been saddened and angered by Kaepernick's words and actions. His blanket statements disparaging the law enforcement profession are hurtful and do not help bring the country together. As distasteful as his actions are, these actions are protected by the Constitution. Police officers are here to protect the rights of every person, even if we disagree with their position. Police officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Sellers said he would urge the police union to put the safety of citizens first:
Earlier this week, Kaepernick was spotted at practice wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs, sparking additional outrage.
The quarterback has received support from teammates and other football players who have followed his lead during the singing of the national anthem, and some veterans who have aired their support online.
Kaepernick has said he decided to make the silent protest because of what he called oppression of minorities in the US, and mentioning the killing of minorities in police shootings.
The Santa Clara Police union was not the first to criticize the actions of the quarterback.
IThe San Francisco Police Officers Association also sent a letter to the 49ers and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking their organizations to apologize for Kaepernick.
“We will not stand by while he attacks police officers in this country with statements such as, ‘People are on paid leave while people of color are killed,’” the statement read. “Not only does he show an incredible lack of knowledge regarding our profession and ‘officer involved’ shootings, but also shows a naivety and total lack of sensitivity toward police officers.”
The union invited Kaepernick to visit the department’s academy, and asked the NFL to, “denounce his foolish statements and separate yourself from his actions.”
The 49ers, in the meantime, have backed Kaepernick's actions, stating that players have a right to participate, or not, in the national anthem.