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Colin Kaepernick Says He is Not Anti-American and Respects the Military

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said Thursday that his national anthem protest was misunderstood and said he will donate $1 million to groups in need.

“The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men-and-women of the military and that’s not the case at all,’’ Kaepernick said, USA Today reports. “I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee so I have the utmost respect for them.”

Read More: Colin Kaepernick and a Brief History of Protest in Sports

“Once again, I’m not anti-American,’’ he said again later that evening. “I love America.”

Kaepernick said he will donate $1 million this year to help communities in need. He sparked controversy last Friday after he refused to stand with his teammates during the national anthem, saying at the time, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com