"I have to stand up for people that are oppressed." Helga Esteb /

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick won't stand for America's national anthem, he says, because people of color are oppressed by police. He's being vilified by conservatives.

Seahawks defensive linesman Michael Bennett supports his right to protest however he sees fit.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick 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."

For instance, just this month, a Department of Justice investigation concluded that Baltimore's police department is unconstitutionally racist and violent.

Here's another reason not to stand for the anthem: Like the Confederate flag, it represents white supremacy. The song celebrates slavery and the vengeful killings of slaves seeking freedom.

The third verse contains this line: "No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave"

As Jon Schwarz explains, the anthem was written by Francis Scott Key after a key battle in Baltimore against the British in the War of 1812. At the time, the British were actively encouraging slaves to desert their owners and join their side, promising them freedom.

"When Key penned, 'No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,' he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves," Schwarz writes. "His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself."

Key was a white supremacist. He believed black people to be "a distinct and inferior race of people."

By not standing for the anthem, Kaepernick follows in the footsteps of baseball great Jackie Robinson and Olympic winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith.

UPDATE: Don't miss this essay by Bomani Jones: "Kaepernick’s challenge to America is actually the most American thing he can do."