Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Colin Kaepernick, who fearlessly uses his celebrity platform to shed light on this country's race issues.
The 29-year-old first made a name for himself in the football world when he was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers during the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. He is the team's starting quarterback and entered the playoffs in in 2012 and 2013. But Kaepernick proved to be much more than his football skills, and made his voice as part of the proud black community heard loud and clear.
Kaepernick was the first footballer to begin protesting the national anthem at big games. He first started it at a 49ers' preseason game in August 2016, where he opted, with a full afro, to ditch tradition and sit on the bench instead of standing. His teammate Eric Reid also joined him in protest solidarity. Kaepernick explained his reasoning, which correlated with the Black Lives Matter movement:
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.”
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said in a later interview with the NFL Media. "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."
The athlete's act of defiance was met with wide criticism from sports fans and veterans alike, but many (including other veterans) respected where he was coming from. “Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it,” former Green Beret Nate Boyer said in an open letter. But what people felt about Kaepernick's actions wasn't his purpose—he was doing this for a bigger cause.
He continued to protest in various ways, from proudly rocking his luscious afro or cornrows instead of his usual tapered haircut to showing his stance with Black Lives Matter on Twitter. Last summer, he also wore a shirt with an image of Fidel Castro meeting with Malcolm X at a news conference after a 49ers preseason game.
"We do break up families here,” Kaepernick said after a Miami Herald reporter grilled him about wearing Castro on the shirt. “That’s what mass incarceration is. That was the foundation of slavery, so our country has been based on that as well as the genocide of Native Americans.”
In September, a poll revealed that Kaepernick is the most disliked player in the NFL. But you do think he cares about that? Of course not. His mission is way more important than a popularity contest, and his prevalent voice will solidify his spot in future black history.