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Kaepernick's Criticism Echoes Through Floyd Protests

Brook Ward via Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

In the wake of the horrifying death of George Floyd, social media timelines have been flooded this past week with amazing words and images.

Some of the pictures and videos of unleashed anger and protests in the streets of the nation’s cities have been heartbreaking while the words have been, in many cases, eye-opening , especially from sports figures. 


While a few, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s stunning op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, have been searing commentary on the state of black America, others, like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s say all the right things statement, barely scratched the surface.

Goodell’s response, in particular, stands in stark contrast to the front page of Sunday’s sports section of the Houston Chronicle.

The page is in black with white lettering and has the word Imagine written four times above copy that asks the reader to envision a world where former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest had been acknowledged.

The page suggests that Americans could be working toward a solution to the issues that have prompted the protests of the last week rather than the violence and arrests that have marked the uprising.

And then, with pictures of Floyd and Kaepernick flanking opposite parts of the page, the Chronicle gets to the heart of the matter in these words quote: 

Because this is exactly what Kaepernick was protesting. Not the anthem. Not the flag. Not the military. But unchecked police brutality against people of color like George Floyd in our country unquote.

The page in general and that paragraph in particular are a shot across the bow of the noblesse oblige of people like Goodell and the NFL’s 32 owners. 

Except, as we’ve seen time and time again, the privileged folks who run and own the nation’s most popular sports operation don’t operate with a sense of generosity to their black players or fans.

Kaepernick is living proof of that fact. He remains without a job or even a serious tryout for a job five years after speaking a truth that has become self-evident even to those who don’t want to see. 

If you could watch the video of a Minneapolis policeman kneel on the neck of Floyd and somehow be more outraged by the kneeling of Kaepernick for a righteous cause, then you could be, among other things, an NFL owner.

Indeed, while Colin Kaepernick sits and waits, former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, Kaepernick’s opponent in Super Bowl 47, was signed last week by the New York Jets. 

Flacco is three years older than Kaepernick and is recovering from a herniated disc in his neck that will keep him from practicing, practicing, mind you before September. Meanwhile, Kaepernick is ready to go now.

Going forward, for all the words you hear from and about athletes and their willingness to wade into social and political commentary, the three that should be rendered forevermore meaningless are "stick to sports". 

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.


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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.