IRVINE, Calif. -- Jeff Fisher's profound respect for the national anthem was noticeable during a recent episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks", which aired footage of a team meeting in which the Los Angeles Rams coach walked his players through the proper way to salute the flag before games. But Fisher wanted no part of the controversy that has engulfed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is sitting during the national anthem -- his way to raise awareness for racial oppression in the United States.
"I know it's a societal issue, but I don't feel like it's my place to comment," Fisher said during Sunday's availability. "I think our respect for the national anthem has been very, very well-documented, and we're going to continue to have respect for the national anthem."
Kaepernick sat during the national anthem for the 49ers' first three preseason games, and addressed his reasoning with the media on Sunday. The sixth-year pro cited police brutality as a central theme and said he will not stand for the anthem until "there's significant change, and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent."
Fisher said he would be "very, very surprised" if any of his players mimicked Kaepernick.
"I’m not being critical of 'Kap,'" Fisher added. "He has every right to do that, but we have an organizational philosophy that has been in place for a long time with respect to the anthem. I think it’s a special event, and it’s something that should be respected, and that’s my opinion."
Some Rams players made their own social statement in 2014, when the team played in St. Louis, in recognition of protests in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. Five players -- Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Jared Cook -- came out of the tunnel with the "hands up, don't shoot" pose prior to a home game against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 30.
Discipline was not handed out, but the St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players to be punished and for the NFL to apologize.
Fisher felt his players were "misunderstood."
"They wanted to direct attention to the community of Ferguson because they felt the community needed help and they were helping them," Fisher said Sunday. "... Obviously, you have compassion for the things that are happening in society, and players have the opportunity because they have a platform. There’s a place for it, and there’s not a place for it. ... To a man, if you asked each one of them if they’d do it all over again, they probably would. I thought, from an organization standpoint, we dealt with it appropriately and with compassion and concern for what was taking place in Ferguson."