Colin Kaepernick never really fit in to “Mainstream” America. Colin Kaepernick was a tattooed “Face of the Franchise.” He did not have the typical skill set of an “All-American Quarterback ” Not in the tradition of the Roger Staubach’s and the Bart Starr’s of the NFL common era. Colin Kaepernick was a reported recluse in the locker room–a man that barely communicated with his teammates before and after professional football contest. 1 Even during his childhood; the adopted son of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, 2 Colin always seemed to stand out. It’s no wonder that the former University of Nevada, Reno football jock choose to stand out in the most peculiar way. Colin Kaepernick choose to sit during the traditional of the pregame singing of the National Anthem of the United States, during a preseason contest between the Green Bay Packers and his former San Francisco 49ers. 3
A year before, I can remember browsing my favorite message board and coming across a reproduction of a Instagram post belonging to one Colin Kaepernick. It contained a meme of the Black Panthers of Civil Rights Era America fame. I believe it was a Huey Newton quote embossed into a photo of African-American men, stoic in black attire, clad in leather jackets. Curious, I ventured deeper into his page to find it littered with more socially conscious images, obviously displaying the mindset of the young QB at that time. That was then -2015- August 26, 2016 was now. 3 Kaepernick lit the flame on the wildfire, causing speculation as to why a multi-million dollar athlete would choose the nation’s largest platform to critique the very country that enriched him in ways the majority of us could only dream of.
In July 2016, Jeronimo Yanez, officer of the local Minneapolis police department, pulled over a motorist for what should have been a routine traffic stop. 4 There was a broken tail light on the car, which contained three passengers. Two minutes later, a man lay dead, a woman shocked and a child torn. The child and mother Diamond Reynolds, shocked as the life of Philando Castile was taken away. A child torn from her father, a woman torn from a partner she surely had plans to see the next day. According to a June 22, 2017 article on Time Magazine’s website, 5 police footage released showed the mother and daughter in the back of a police cruiser shortly afterward. An exchange between Reynolds and her little girl was quoted:
“No, please don’t, I don’t want you to get shooted (sic)”
Her mother responds:
“They’re not going to shoot, I’m already in handcuffs”
This is one of what can be described as almost episodic instances of police shootings involving unarmed black males. Castile’s death alone can encapsulate why Colin choose to take a seat to, and later kneel, the Star Spangled Banner. Yanez has just been acquitted, once again reported by TIME, of manslaughter in a trial for the death of Mr. Philando Castile. In an interview being questioned about his decision to stage a weekly protest throughout the entire 2016-2017 NFL Regular season, Kaepernick is quoted:
“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.” 6
Colin Kaepernick does not fit in. Definitely not with many of his contemporaries in the league, who choose not to lend much credence to the notion there is a problem with the regular deaths of unarmed citizen under capricious circumstances at the hands of law enforcement. Kaepernick remains a free agent. He is a free agent, detached away from a professional football team. Detached, maybe, from maybe the vicious opinions of NFL executives who felt his weekly display was an “embarrassment” to the league. 7 Detached from the idea that athletes, particularly NFL Quarterbacks, exist merely to encourage America to tune in every weekend. Colin is detached from the idea he was supposed to fit into the system as a way to exist as an important figure in the American zeitgeist.
Maybe, it’s no coincidence that the inaugural Kaepernick “kneel-in” happened a mere four months after the passing of another American dissenter, Muhammad Ali. Ali was a man NFL legend Jim Brown once stated was not loved by Americans at large, until he couldn’t speak any more due to the complications of the Alzheimer’s illness. He once used his voice for dissention, and no longer accept the idea than you must fight for your home country, despite what conditions laid bare for people like yourself, and go ignored by the public at large. Mr. Ali did not fit in, either. Maybe there is no place for Kaepernick in the National Football League – the most popular sport in the United States of America. The same country where little girls must be consoled by their mothers that they won’t lose both parents in the span of an hour simply due to the apparent fear of one man. Colin Kaepernick is one man that refused to fit in and choose to challenge the structure of American society. He is now free.
Kaepernicks break silence: ‘Very proud’ of Colin