I can’t think of any professional athlete’s career more interesting in recent memory than that of San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Coming out of Nevada, the tall, skinny signal caller was considered one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in recent memory and the eventual future leader of the 49ers. However, with the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh and the incredible resurgence of believed best Alex Smith at the QB position, Kaepernick’s career on the Bay looked more and more like he’d be sitting on a bench holding a playbook.
In 2013 however, an injury to Smith thrusted Kap to the starting position where in immediately led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance with only ten career starts. 2014 saw Kaepernick take further strides as a QB. That offseason, he inked a 126 million dollar contract extension. All looked great.
And then, it stopped. Harbaugh was out of San Francisco. Many of the veterans who had a large role in their Super Bowl appearance were gone. The 2015 season saw Kaepernick take a massive step back production wise and benched halfway through the season. Questions of intelligence on the field, likability in the locker room, and maturity off the field began to surface during the season. So coming into 2016, you would think the once rising superstar would do anything he possibly could to take the spotlight off him…Nope!
Kaepernick has been the most talked about athlete in the country over the past two weeks for refusing to stand during the National Anthem. After the game, he gave his reasons.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
And with the massive backlash he has gotten from what seems to be everyone and their grandmothers, you would think that he said “I love ISIS and the Holocaust didn’t happen.” An anonymous NFL executive referred to him as a “traitor” and that not since former NFL player and convicted murderer Rae Carruth has a player been so universally disliked in the front office. There have been calls he should leave the country, that he has disrespected the troops by not standing, and that he should be cut from the 49ers. The Santa Clara Police Department has threatened to boycott the 49ers opener if Kaepernick isn’t reprimand for the comments and wearing socks with pigs in police hats, though he said that he has wore them all throughout training camp.
It seems like over the past week, the conversation about Kaepernick has been everything but the main reason why he choose not to stand. Instead of talking about police relations with minorities, it’s easier to burn his jersey and call him racial slurs. Instead of having an adult conversation about the real issue of police brutality and race relations with police stemming from Kaepernick’s decision, it’s easier to say he doesn’t support the troops. At a certain point, it just gets tiring because simply sitting down and talking about real issues seem to be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Since Muhammad Ali’s death this summer and the opening of the ESPYs that saw four of the NBA’s biggest stars cry out for peace and social justice, African American athletes have been looked upon to become leaders in the community and the nation. These athletes look to the past and for inspiration and ideas to help guide them. And just like Kaepernick, Jackie Robinson had issues with the national anthem.
“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
Though there have been obvious race relation improves since Jackie wrote that in his 1972 autobiography, scenes in Baton Rouge and Minnesota really questions how far we’ve come and whether or not we need modern day black sports icons like we had in the 1960s. Some of those icons, Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul Jabbar has already spoke in support of Colin. #VeteransforKaepernick was trending on Twitter for a few days.
Is Kaepernick Robinson, Brown, or Ali? No, of course not. There’s no guarantee that he’ll start, let alone be good. However, I believe Kaepernick is just the first of many athletes that’ll begin to voice more political and social opinions. And to those who still look at Kaepernick as a traitor, I’ll direct you to the tweets of ESPN’s Jemele Hill.
“We had a global celebration of Muhammad Ali’s life. Ali took a stand similar to Kaepernick’s. If you are criticizing Kaepernick now, but love Ali, it really shows you didn’t care what he stood for.”
And in my opinion, not just Ali. Robinson, Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem and all the other black athletes that used their stage to voice American racial injustice.