The first Super Bowl I watched was Super Bowl XLVII, which involved Colin Kaepernick with The 49ers vs Joe Flacco with The Ravens. It was fantastic, The 49ers lost, but Colin Kaepernick established himself as an elite quarterback. The following season he continued to dominate the league throwing 21 touchdowns to 8 interceptions and dragging his team one game short of a Super Bowl losing in the NFC championship to the Seattle Seahawks who would win it that year. The 49ers gave Kaepernick a 6 year $126 million contract to show Kaepernick he was their future. But in 2014 Colin saw his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, which he had great success with fired and replaced with a new coach. This made Kaepernick unhappy but he played one whole season doleful, and The 49ers went 2-6 under him as quarterback, but he got injured and couldn’t finish the season. He then got yet another new head coach and asked for a trade. Kaepernick almost received the trade but the deal fell apart when the Denver Broncos asked him to take a pay cut from his massive contract. Kaepernick never received the trade and went 1-10, mostly due to a historically bad team defense. Instead of Kaepernick finishing his final three years with the 49ers he opted out of his contract and hit free agency.
So why has it been almost two years since I’ve seen Kaepernick throw a football? Well in the 2016 season he decided to protest against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Since 2012 America has seen an awakening to focus on police brutality in unarmed black people, which we can attribute to the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin; an african American child walking home when he was killed by George Zimmerman who was acquitted for second degree murder. This began a trend in the years to follow that would become worse and worse. A police officer would kill a unarmed black man and we would have video proof of no weapon or proof that the officer was not in danger, but the officer would still pull the trigger and kill said unarmed person then a meaningless trial and the officer would be acquitted.
A perfect example of this which hit me personally is the case of Eric Garner. Garner WAS a 43 year old african American man who stood 6’3” and weighed 350 pounds, he worked as a horticulture for New York City’s parks and recreation department and HAD six kids. On July 17, 2014 Garner decided to go to the corner store and this part of the story becomes confusing some say Garner was selling single cigarettes; which is illegal in New York state. We know for certain that police officer Daniel Pantaleo, an officer who was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 were he was accused of falsely arresting and abusing 2 men. Pantaleo comes from behind and attempted to handcuff Garner who then pulled his arms away, saying ‘Don’t touch me, please.’. Pantaleo then put Garner in a chokehold from behind which are prohibited by NYPD regulations. After getting Garner to the ground Pantaleo had removed his arm from around Garner’s neck; Pantaleo then used his hands to push Garner’s face into the sidewalk. Garner is heard saying ‘I can’t breathe’ eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk. New York Police report that Garner was alive during the arrest and died during the transportation to the hospital. And just like that Eric Garner was no more. This was all caught on video by Ramsey Orta a friend of Eric Garner. Eric Garner was pronounced dead at the hospital one hour after the incident.
To many people, including myself, we knew Kaepernick’s kneeling was the reason wasn’t getting a job. We had seen this all before with every African American athlete. In America there are two types of racism in athletics the kind that Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick went through which is speaking out on racial injustice vs the kind that Jackie Robinson and Patrick Ewing went through just for being of a different color.
Let’s talk about Muhammad Ali who was a world champion boxer winning a gold metal in the 1960 olympics at the age of 18 years old. In 1964 at 22 years old he won the heavyweight championship. He was an American celebrity and had a bright future that would of made him loved by millions like 1960-1970 O.J. Simpson, a man who denied his race multiple times to embrace the fans. But in 1966 two years removed from winning his Heavyweight championship he was drafted in U.S. Armed forces to fight in Vietnam but refused to served due to his religious beliefs, and opposition to American involvement. Ali grow up In Louisville Kentucky, he had witness racism first hand he once told a story about coming home after winning gold medal at the olympics and sitting in a white area and asking for a coffee and being denied it just for the color of his skin. Ali was also a witness to the In 1967 Newark riots, a year after Muhammad Ali refused to fight in Vietnam, a black cab driver by the name of John Smith was ripped out of his viechical and beaten in Newark, New Jersey and was completely unarmed. Many people believed the rumor that the police officers had beaten the cab driver to death. There was also a rise in unemployment rate and the cities disproportionate representation in parliament led to this riot. Muhammad Ali was eventually stripped of his boxing titles and even arrested. He would go to the supreme court in 1971 to appeal and would win and would be allowed to box again. By that time he had not boxed for nearly four years and thereby lost a period of peak performance as an athlete, that’s four years of his prime and millions of dollars he could of made but instead he did what was right which also bettered African American rights.
Then we have the tale of John Carlos and Tommie Smith whose stories are almost an exact carbon copy of Colin Kaepernick’s situation. Tommie Smith along with Lew Alcindor, later to be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, both had announced that he (Lew Alcindor) wouldn’t attend the olympics because he didn’t like the racial injustice in America. However Tommie Smith changed his mind and attended. Prior to Tommie Smith changing his mind and attending the olympics. A reporter asked O.J. Simpson a star sprinter at USC if he would decline to take Smiths spot on the Olympic roster to protest police brutality. Which he dodged answering the question by saying “I don’t want to be involved in it because I’m not in track, you know I’m running track but when it comes to olympic time I’ll be in football so I have no comment.” O.J. Simpson and Tommie Smith are somewhat intertwined both star athletes witnessing the 1965 Watts riots, a riot which started due to police beating a man during a traffic stop, yet for some reason this riot which is the second largest riot in U.S. history and opened the eyes of a young Tommie Smith. He saw he needed to use his plate form to fight for equal rights and yet the riots didn’t open O.J.’s eye or maybe it did open his eyes but he decided to simulate for self preservation. John Carlos and Tommie Smith were sprinters in the 1968 Mexico summer olympic games, Smith won gold and Carlos took home bronze, they both infamously raised black-gloved fists and bowed their heads. Smith and Carlos would both be subject to white Americans’ favorite pastime, threatening black people for speaking us against racism. However unlike the Kaepernick incident both Smith and Carlos were forgiven rather quickly. Smith went on to join the Cincinnati Bengals and then an assistant professor of physical education at Oberlin College. Carlos’ career lead him to tied the 100 yard dash world record the following year and even saw him join the NFL in the 1970s draft. In 1985 after a long time of different jobs between sports and olympic planing, he became a track and field coach at Palm Springs High School.
Colin Kaepernick’s legacy is still being written, what he’ll be remembered for is a question that’s being decided everyday. Will Kaepernick be remembered as a civil rights murder, as a quarterback who’s controversy was bigger than his play making ability, or will be be remembered like Tommie Smith who is only known for his protest. Although Smith lived a life full of award accolade and money but is only remembered for raising a fist. When I started my research on athletes protesting civil injustice I honestly expect for them to be punished severely but they weren’t. Think about it Muhammad Ali won his lawsuit and never went to Vietnam and boxed again even gave us The Rumble In The Jungle match, one of the greatest fights of all time. Tommie Smith and John Carlos both got death threats but they both joined the NFL making a good amount of money and having work, Carlos even working on the olympic committee. None of these athletes were blacklisted like Kaepernick is, why?… I don’t have the answer for this question. There are only two thing I know for sure; Kaepernick is good enough to be in the NFL still and the story of Colin Kaepernick will be in my child’s history books.