By Julia Zorthian
September 8, 2016

Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has protested America’s treatment of minorities by not standing during the national anthem at games, refuted internet rumors on Wednesday that said he had converted to Islam.

People online have reportedly theorized that Kaepernick became a Muslim under the influence of his Muslim girlfriend, Nessa Diab, who allegedly convinced him to take the stand about racial injustices such as police violence. Kaepernick denied the claims to reporters and said they were connected with Islamophobia. The backup quarterback also mentioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, USA Today reports.

“I have great respect for the religion, know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people,’’ Kaepernick said. “But I think that [rumor about conversion] comes along with people’s fear of this protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country. People are terrified of them to the point where Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous.”

Since Kaepernick’s protest first made headlines at the end of August, his Jersey has spiked in sales to become the most popular in the NFL right now. Kaepernick added Wednesday that he’s not the only player in the NFL to feel this way; others are “just nervous about consequences that come with it” and aren’t comfortable speaking their mind.

[USA TODAY]

Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com.

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