Has Kaepernick really converted to Islam? The controversial NFL player responds

Posted September 14

San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick has denied reports that he converted to Islam as intense controversy continues to rage over his decision to sit during the national anthem.

Kaepernick told sports reporter Cam Inman that he has not become a Muslim, as some have claimed, though he did say he has "great respect for the religion."

"I know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people, but I think that comes along of people’s fear of protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country," the quarterback said. "People are terrified of them to the point where (Donald) Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous."

Watch Kaepernick's comments here.

Kaepernick has, in fact, gained attention in the past for his Christian faith, with both he and his adoptive parents discussing the importance of his faith in his life; he even has Bible verses tattooed on his biceps.

Reports about a purported conversion to Islam have pointed to Kaepernick's girlfriend, Nessa Diab, noting that she is a Muslim and speculating that he adopted her faith. But Kaepernick said last week that any impact she has had is restricted to intense and thoughtful conversations, according to the New York Daily News.

"The impact is just conversations we constantly have," Kaepernick said. "This is an open discussion I have with many people, not just my woman ... I don’t think anybody should be prosecuted or judged based on what their beliefs are."

As for the controversy surrounding his decision to sit down during "The Star-Spangled Banner," the NFL player said he isn't alone in pushing back against inequality in America — and that other players agree.

Kaepernick said some are simply too afraid to take a public stand.

"I think it's something that there's a lot of players that really feel the same way. They're just nervous about the consequences that come along with it," he said. "A lot of them have families to feed."

Kaepernick went on to call it "tragic" that people are too nervous to say what they truly believe and that the dynamic "speaks to the oppression in culture" that forces people to fall in line or be punished if they fail to do so.

As reported, a number of claims have been made in recent months about Kaepernick converting to Islam. In addition to these allegations have come doctored photos showing him wearing Islamic symbols; one photo included a Photoshopped image of his face over a picture of Osama bin Laden.

The claims reportedly stemmed from a July post on sports gossip blog Terez Owens, with the outlet citing an unnamed tipster as saying that Kaepernick had converted after being introduced to Islam by his girlfriend.

Speculation was likely also fueled by an Instagram post that Kaepernick published wishing Muslims a happy Eid as Ramadan came to a close in July.

As Deseret News National previously reported, Kaepernick first landed in the headlines last month when he decided to sit during the national anthem in protest, later explaining that he did so to rail against injustices he sees in the U.S.

"People don't realize what's really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust," he said from the locker room after debate touched off. "People aren't being held accountable for. And that's something that needs to change. That's something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it's not happening for all right now."

He cited "police brutality" as one of these problems and said that he plans to "continue to sit," according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

In his more recent comments about the dispute, Kaepernick also addressed President Barack Obama's statements about his national anthem protest.

The president said that Kaepernick is "exercising his constitutional right" and that he is sparking important conversations.

"When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past," Obama said of the protests. "But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about."

Kaepernick said that he appreciated Obama's statements on the matter.

"He's also someone who realizes that there's many issues that need to be addressed," the player said. "I think that was great that he came out and supported the message — that we do need to make changes."

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