Colin Kaepernick, left and Eric Reid look watch Serena Williams play Venus Williams during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Tennis superstar Serena Williams said Friday night all athletes should be “completely grateful” to former San Francisco 49ers teammates Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid for their roles in starting the protests during the United States national anthem to oppose social injustice.

Dan Gelston of the Associated Press provided comments from Williams about Kaepernick and Reid, who were in attendance for her victory over sister Venus Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.

“I think every athlete, every human, and definitely every African American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good, so to say,” she said. “They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable. I feel like they obviously have great respect from a lot of their peers, especially other athletes, people that really are looking for social change.”

Kaepernick posted a photo of his niece, Lani, getting a chance to meet the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion after the match:

The Niners’ former starting quarterback began the trend of kneeling while the anthem played during the 2016 NFL preseason.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told NFL Media at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He’s remained a free agent since opting out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017. Reid, who joined Kaepernick in the protest, went unsigned throughout the 2017 offseason.

Both players have filed collusion cases against the NFL for being unable to sign with new teams. Kaepernick scored a legal victory Thursday when arbitrator Stephen B. Burbank ruled his lawyers had discovered enough evidence to require a full hearing, per Ken Belson of the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Williams’ victory over her older sister advanced her to the fourth round of the U.S. Open, where she’ll face off with Kaia Kanepi.

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