Carlos Delgado, who protested in 2004: Colin Kaepernick's actions rooted in American ideals

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Before there was Colin Kaepernick sitting and kneeling during the national anthem, before there was backlash -- and backlash from the backlash -- and long before talk simmered of how Major League Baseball wouldn't provide the best forum for social protest, there was Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado, sitting in the dugout during "God Bless America."

Twelve years ago, Delgado quietly remained in the dugout while the song was played during the seventh inning of games as had become tradition across the league after 9/11.

Delgado, speaking in an interview published by Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día over the weekend, said he knows to some degree what Kaepernick is going through and that he doesn't think the San Francisco 49ers quarterback "is refusing to stand for the national anthem."

"It is not that he doesn't respect the anthem," Delgado said in Spanish to El Nuevo Día. "I am almost positive that that is not the case. Just as I, in my era, it wasn't that I didn't respect 'God Bless America' or what it represented for the United States. But yes, he is tying what he thinks it should represent for the African-American community in the United States, especially given all the things that have happened lately with African Americans victims of beatings by white police."

Delgado, whose protest was directed at the U.S. participation in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had also said he meant no disrespect to the institutions Americans attach to such songs as "God Bless America" and "The Star Spangled Banner".

"It was something very personal at that moment," Delgado said of his decision to protest. "Obviously I spoke with several people, but more than anything about how it went, how I felt about people booing me. I would say that when you do [something like this], you do it because you feel it is the right thing to do. Not necessarily because you expect a specific result or because you expect some kind of metrics or intention before doing it."

Delgado was a two-time All-Star during a 17-year career as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Blue Jays,Florida Marlins and New York Mets, before his retirement after the 2009 season.

"I don't think it is any secret that in the United States there is a problem with racism," Delgado said. "Obviously, he has to know that he has a legion of followers and a legion of people who will hate him until his death. That is what democracy is about. You have the liberty to express how you feel and another has the liberty to say what they think about it.

"At this moment, he decided to take a knee during the anthem and he will have supporters and detractors. I think the important thing is for him to be consistent with his principles and his message. It is not normal that here we are in 2016 and we still have segregation, marginalization and the abuse that we have against minorities, religious communities and African-American communities."

Delgado said he wasn't suggesting "everyone should protest."

"But I think it is important that athletes, who have this platform, where they can reach millions of people, they should use it," Delgado said. "If your principles indicate that you want to do something or must do it, you should act, whether you act alone or with others. Yes, I received support from some of my fellow athletes. And even those who didn't join me, they never made me feel left out. They never elbowed me out. But I heard from others who wanted to rip my head off, saying: 'Go back to Puerto Rico.' But I knew that would be part of the process. When you take this decision you know that there will be people who support you and those who will hate you. The most important thing is to stay true to your values and your principles."

Delgado told Editor and Publisher at the time that however political his protest seemed, that's not what it was about "because I hate politics."

"I say God bless America," Delgado said then. "God bless Miami, God bless Puerto Rico and all countries until there is peace in the world."