Colin Kaepernick cannot win.
For some, the now former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trailblazer for social equality at a time when the United States was beginning to tear itself apart.
His refusal to stand for the national anthem last season sparked ferocious debate. It was started before United States President Donald Trump’s rise to power though was timely all the same. Police brutality in deprived black communities had reached the point of no return.
It sparked a similar stream of political stands from all over US sports – especially in the NFL and the NBA. Say what you want about Trump (pictured right) – believe me, it’s hard to avoid the man’s name in conversation here – but his Presidency has undoubtedly got literally everyone talking – and caring – about politics.
Though considering the revelation that the 29-year-old Kaepernick will refrain from kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner came at exactly the same time he was announced as a free-agent after six years with the 2-14 Niners, doubts surrounding his protests have been raised.
‘He’s a hypocrite’ snarled the New York Daily News who were convinced his decision to abort his public displays of anger to ensure getting the best contract possible. “So much for the cause he once called ‘bigger than football’, and so much for the anger he once had toward a flag that ‘oppresses black people and people of colour,’” wrote one of their columnists. Harsh.
This whole saga, coupled with the anger and fury over the political climate right now, totally overshadowed his day job – throwing footballs for touchdowns which he failed to do very often.
There were times when he found himself uncomfortably out of his depth when his politics hat was on. On wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a picture of despised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he was ripped apart from a Miamibased columnist who severely took him to task on where exactly his allegiances lie.
Some members of the military were also upset for what they saw as disrespecting the flag. An unnamed NFL account executive told the Washington Post that his future may not be straightforward: “Everything is a factor, especially at that position. You take everything into consideration. That’s the face of your franchise, as they say.” Kaepernick has baggage.
The 49ers weren’t keen to extend his deal, which says everything about their view of him from a purely sporting point of view. Nevertheless, at the end of last season he was presented with the Len Eshmont award from 49ers top brass, the yearly gong which is given to the player who impresses with spirit and heart.
The Kaepernicks won’t be going hungry anytime soon, yet this is his last payday. He has to chase some money. The way he attacked the authorities from his lofty vantage point and inspired others to follow suit was admirable. Okay, so he won’t kneel anymore.
Yes, the timing can be construed as being a tad iffy. But will his beliefs change as a result? Absolutely not. This period of his life will stick with him forever. He’s certainly not backwards in coming forwards. Yet perhaps, for now, enough is enough. Point made.
People have been made aware. The fight isn’t over even if the kneeling is. He donated money – over $1 million – to organisations working in oppressed communities, but protests of this kind cannot last forever.
The fight goes on regardless, with or without him, yet it did cause a serious problem for commissioner Roger Goodell who was trying to talk down a reduction in TV viewing figures at the time.
By the end of the season, there wasn’t a fuss made about Kaepernick’s knee, though the image had been seared into America’s conscious. It took huge guts to take a stand and it takes even more courage to walk away knowing a firestorm is on the way.
Those looking to follow his lead in the future will undoubtedly be inspired and wary in equal measure.
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