When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem, NFL fans reacted strongly. Many supported his decision, but a vocal majority expressed anger about the San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Kelly Stafford, the wife of Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford, was among this group initially but has since altered her opinion.
Kelly revealed the change in a post on Instagram, where she confirmed the couple has donated money to endow a social justice program at the University of Georgia before speaking about Kaepernick. Kelly admitted error in her initial thinking dating back to 2017, and apologized for her criticism. She said that she let "political rhetoric" influence her thinking.
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"When Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, I had strong feelings about it. Even when he kept saying it had nothing to do with the flag or military, I didn't listen. I kept not listening to him or anyone else and let the political rhetoric persuade me that him kneeling was disrespectful to our military," Kelly wrote on Instagram. "Over the past several months, I have opened my ears, mind, and heart and it has opened my eyes to see how wrong I was and for that I am sorry.
"This systematic racism is not going away unless we ALL work on it by working on ourselves and those around us. It’s time for everyone to do their part to help end this system. Matthew and I thought this was a good place to start. We are proud to be a part of this program and we will keep fighting to help end this social injustice. Black Lives Matter."
Kelly previously spoke out about Kaepernick during the 2017 season. She posted a photo of the American flag blowing in the breeze and made strong comments about those that kneel during the national anthem. She also quoted author Mitch Albom and then said that the country could stand united against racism, police brutality, sex trafficking and the killing of cops.
"If you think the answer is people showing unity, stand with them. The anthem is not the national police song. The anthem is not the national racist's song. The anthem is an exercise in how this country can endure and rise, how we can agree on its future potential, even while struggling with its present," Kelly wrote at the time.
While Kelly did make strong comments about kneeling during the national anthem, she did say that she expected disagreements and that "it is ok." She promoted discussing the topic on social media. However, Kelly also emphasized that she means talking, not yelling.