Colin Kaepernick's decision to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality, as well as direct critical words at officers across the nation, has the Santa Clara police union saying its officers might stop working San Francisco 49ers home games.
NBC Bay Area obtained a letter, penned by union members, to the San Francisco 49ers stating that if the organization does not take action against Kaepernick, "it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities."
The Santa Clara Police Department is the lead police agency at Levi’s Stadium. During 49er games, around 70 officers volunteer to work and are paid as security personnel. Now it is unknown whether more than half of those officers will show up at the team's next game on Sept. 12.
"I'm already hearing it this week that next week on Monday Night Football, some officers are not going to work," said Frank Saunders, president of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association.
According to the union, about one-third of the officers who work during 49ers games are from other Bay Area law enforcement departments. If Santa Clara's police officers refuse to work, others officers might be hired. But, Saunders said, that may create a conflict with the city’s contract with the police union.
Although disheartened and angered by Kaepernick's remarks, Santa Clara Police Department Chief Michael Sellers called for his officers to put the community's safety above potential boycotts in a statement issued Saturday.
"The safety of our community is our highest priority," Sellers wrote. "I will urge the POA leadership to put the safety of our citizens first. I will work with both sides to find a solution. In the meantime, I will ensure we continue to provide a safe environment at Levi's Stadium."
Sellers added that he respects Kaepernick's right to voice an opinion and encourages his officers to protect those constitutional rights for every citizen, even if they disagree.
Officers are angered by Kaepernick's comments about police brutality and accusations that officers "murder minorities." They are also frustrated by the San Francisco quarterback's decision to wear socks during practice that depict pigs in police uniforms, according to the association.
"The 49ers are allowing this to come out from an employee and it's making for a hostile work environment for us at the stadium," Saunders said.
The union's letter also stated that its board of directors have "a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their workings environments free of harassing behavior."
The San Francisco 49ers organization reiterated Friday night that it stands behind its previous statements and respects Kaepernick's right to freedom of expression.
In a statement made immediately following reports of Kaepernick's decision to sit down during the playing of the national anthem before San Francisco preseason game against Green Bay last week, the franchise said, "In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."
But Saunders wants the team to treat the quarterback like any company would treat an employee.
"It was a totality of all those circumstances that we felt, 'Let's go talk to the 49ers. Let's have them go deal with" Kaepernick, he said.
Kaepernick’s decision not to stand has triggered a firestorm of comments on social media, in the Bay Area and across the nation. Local police agencies invited Kaepernick over to see their work in action, while many of the quarterback’s colleagues in the NFL said they disagree with his decision not to stand — though some of said they support him.
Some American military veterans, many of them black, came to his defense online, using the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick to indicate that they supported his right to express himself. And Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to as-yet unnamed community organizations.
NBC Bay Area's Brendan Weber contributed to this report.
Read the Santa Clara Police Officers Association's entire letter here: