Kaep: “Can’t show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people.” The reaction was swift. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 19: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers under center in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2014 NFC Championship at CenturyLink Field on January 19, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem before the 49ers preseason game with Green Bay Friday has ignited a fierce debate on social media among professional athletes. Some has been unforgiving, but just as much has been supportive.

Kaepernick sat idly as the anthem played, and later gave this explanation for his actions:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” 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 NFL replied to the controversy with a statement, saying “”Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Other high-profile athletes like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have spoken out against what they perceive as racial and social injustice. Following the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in July, which were captured on video resulting in nationwide protests and demonstrations, Anthony reached out to fellow athletes on social media, urging them to “step up and take charge” of the political environment. As has NBA star Dwayne Wade, whose cousin was fatally shot by a stray bullet Friday as she pushed a baby stroller near a school on Chicago’s South Side.

RELATED: We now know why Colin Kaepernick is still in San Francisco

Social media reaction to Kaepernick, who is bi-racial and was adopted and raised by white parents, was swift, and at times unforgiving.

Yet there were others who applauded his stance.

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