Willie Betts, father of Red Sox star Mookie Betts, was honored as part of "Hats off to Heroes" during a June game against the White Sox. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mookie Betts, son of Vietnam veteran, weighs in on Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest: 'I'm always going to stand because I have that connection'

John Tomase
September 02, 2016 - 9:38 am

With 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a stand during the national anthem by refusing to stand, athletes from across sports have weighed in on the appropriateness of Kaepernick's protest against police violence. For Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the issue is personal. Betts' father, Willie, served in Vietnam as a member of the Air Force. During a game in June against the White Sox, the elder Betts was honored at Fenway Park for his military service. So while Betts does not begrudge Kaepernick his right to sit or kneel -- as he did on Thursday night in a preseason tilt against the Chargers -- he also knows what the song means to him personally. "I mean, it's his right. Nobody can control him," Betts said. "I'm always going to stand because I have that connection. For me, it's different. He may not have that connection, so he may view it differently. It's just your views. However you want to look at it, no one can control what he does. "My dad fought for this country. We may be in a completely different spot if we don't have those people to go out and protect us. So I'll always make sure [to stand.]" Betts sees the anthem as a way to honor those who risked or gave their lives for the country. "It's been more than my dad that has fought," he said. "It's been a lot of family members and whatnot that have gone and fought. I have to pay my respects to them and all the families with loved ones they have lost, for protecting our country. That's just my view of it." Betts is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. The Red Sox open a series in Oakland on Friday with Betts hitting .320 with 30 homers and 96 RBIs. He also leads the league in total bases. He may play a game for a living, but he never forgets where he came from when the strains of the anthem start each night. "Two minutes, three minutes," he said. "Pay your respects for those three minutes and say thank you for your service."