On Colin Kaepernick‘s GQ cover for “Citizen of the Year” stylists evoked The Black Panther Party, an activist group whose platform was reduced to images of black leather jackets, berets and rifles, while their ten-point program, self-defense stance on police brutality, breakfast, healthcare and childcare programs represented the core of their ideals. In another picture, Kaepernick is surrounded by children in Harlem, wearing a dashiki, recalling the picture of Muhammad Ali wearing a dashiki surrounded by the people of what was then called Zaire. Ali was loved all around the world by complete strangers, but despised at home by both liberals and conservatives, many of whom refused to call him by his Islamic name.
WATCH: Beyoncé Presents Colin Kaepernick With “Muhammad Ali Legacy” Award
They’re both fitting pictures that speak volumes without words much like Kaepernick’s silent protest. The backlash behind him being on the cover as “Citizen of the Year” was swift. Readers complained, citing disrespect for the American flag. Not one complainer mentioned Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, or the countless other unarmed black men, women and children killed by police in the last few years. The fact that a silent protest can cause so much anger and cause people to shift the narrative is proof that Kaepernick is doing something right. And proof that there is no “right” way to protest for people who complain about rebellions where property is destroyed or traffic is blocked off. It’s not the way we protest injustice for black people, it’s that we dare to say black people deserve equal rights.
What also gets lost in the narrative is that Kaepernick is as good or greater than many quarterbacks on the field this season. Kaepernick has had a total of 12,271 pass yards in his five year career. He took the San Francisco 49er to the Super Bowl for the first time since the mid-‘90s, losing by a small margin, 34-31. That racism affects its perpetrators as much as its victims is clear from his blackballing. NFL owners could stand to use him on the field as a player and as the moral conscience of the league.
READ: J. Cole, Harry Belafonte & More Speak Out In Favor Of Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick who is worth $22 million, continues to be the conscience for a much larger audience now. One of his charities, United We Dream, provides after school activities and sports opportunities to children in New York City. Another charity, Gathering for Justice’s War on Children, helps reduce child incarceration. United We Dream also helps young immigrants. 100 Suits for Men helps men have professional clothing for job interviews. Kaepernick has met with inmates on Rikers Island to speak with them about their future. He has donated $10,000 for baseball bats and gloves to kids in Harlem. $10,000 for college trips for middle schoolers and $5,000 for laptops for 9th graders.
And at only the ripe old age of 30, he continues to inspire. There are NFL players that continue to protest like Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Robert Quinn. And Kaepernick is not going away anytime soon. He gave up his dream, the dream millions of little boys have to play professional football, to be remembered on the right side of history and fight for the people he loves.
Ericka Blount is a journalist, professor and author from Baltimore, Maryland. Her book ‘Love, Peace and Soul: Behind the Scenes of Soul Train’ is available on Amazon. Please follow her (and us!) on Twitter @ErickaBlount.
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