In recent weeks, everyone from Beltway pundits to the online bigot brigade have tried to turn Colin Kaepernick into a caricature. He’s been reduced to his afro, his socks, or a T-shirt he wore depicting Malcolm X and Fidel Castro. By turning him into a joke, his opposition hopes they won’t have to reckon with the substance of his message or the fact that the protests are spreading.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick is not backing down. In recent comments following the police killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, he disproves anyone in the media who still claims he’s being unserious or just looking for attention:
There’s a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country and people don’t like to address that and they don’t like to address what the root of this protest is. You have players across this country, not only in the NFL but soccer and NBA and high school players, they don’t like to address this issue that people of color are oppressed and treated unjustly. I don’t know why that is or what they’re scared of, but it needs to be addressed.
Kaepernick also spoke about the killing of Terence Crutcher, saying, “This is a perfect example of what this is about. It will be very telling about what happens to the officer that killed him.… It’s very interesting to me how the situation that happened [Monday], they shot and killed a man and walked around like he wasn’t a human being. People are getting killed and not being treated as human beings. No one went and checked on him, no one tried to resuscitate him, nothing. They walked around, went about their business and made up lies to cover up their murder that they just committed. That’s not right, and they should be in prison.”
Most websites have focused on the most sensationalistic part of the interview: Kaepernick’s revelation that he has received death threats for his anthem protests. If that surprises you, then you haven’t been paying attention, given that death threats have been aimed at journalists who have written favorably about Kaepernick, at high-school athletes, and even at protesting kids. Kaepernick said, “I’ve had a few come my way, but not too concerned about it.” He said that he has not alerted team security, because
“to me, if something like that were to happen, you’ve proved my point and it will be loud and clear for everyone why it happened, and that would move this movement forward at a greater speed than what it is even now.
“Granted, it’s not how I want it to happen, but that’s the realization of what could happen. I knew there were other things that came along with this when I first stood up and spoke about it. It’s not something I haven’t thought about.”
He also mentioned the ways that white athletes, like Patriots defensive end Chris Long, when they have spoken with respect and support for the player’s protesting, are largely ignored.
“What’s funny to me I saw Chris Long spoke out about it, but no one wants to talk about what he said and him bringing that to the forefront and speaking out against it, because that’s where it gets very touchy. Because a white player standing up for this, it’s like OK, ‘Well, now we really have to address this because it’s not just black people speaking out because they feel like they’re being attacked. No, it’s a real issue, and it’s disproportionately an issue to people of color.’ I think it was huge that Chris stood up and took that stand.”
He also outlined his efforts to give $1 million to organizations that fight for social justice, $100,000 a month for ten months to 10 different organizations. “You’ll be able to track it so everyone can see exactly what organizations the money is going to, and making sure that we get an itemized list from these organizations as to what they’re spending the money on to make sure that I’m not only transparent with what I’m doing, but these organizations are transparent about where this money is going as well.”
Lastly, Kaepernick recognized that this protest is not going away.
“I think other people picking up on the protest and speaking out about it from high school kids to activists to pro athletes, I think is huge. I think as the conversations continue in these communities, more and more solutions are going to come up as to how to fix this as quickly as possible. That’s ultimately the goal.”
Colin Kaepernick clearly recognizes that this is no longer “his” protest. It’s spreading. A new generation of athletes and sports fans are learning a lesson that social movements have taught for thousands of years: courage is contagious.