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In the spirit of a few Black athletes before him, Kaepernick has used his status to elevate an issue that white America continues to ignore and earnestly take on the issue of race. He added his voice to the national debate about the treatment of Black and Brown people by so-called law enforcers. He took on the powerful NFL and won. Whether Kaepernick gets an NFL contract or not, his place in the struggle for human dignity and racial justice is noteworthy.

Colin Kaepernick Decision

I want to bring together two seemingly unrelated recent rulings. The National Football League settled with former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Three white Chicago cops who lied in their reports about the murder of Laquan McDonald were acquitted by a judge. How are these two rulings related?

Kaep’s view is that America is not paying serious attention to the unfettered abuse of police in communities of color, that the historic white blanket of racism looms over every aspect of our lives. To express his dissatisfaction, Kaepernick first began sitting on the bench when the national anthem was sung. Blatant cop-killings forced him to take it to the next level by “taking a knee.” Other mainly Black NFL players joined the spontaneous actions.

The actions of Kaepernick received national attention. It received the condemnation of President Trump and finally forced the quarterback out of the NFL to become a free agent. It appeared that he was being black-balled by the NFL. He subsequently sued the NFL for collusion to prevent his employment by a franchise team.

The conditions of his settlement are sealed but unconfirmed reports put his take (along fellow team mate Eric Reid) at $60-80 million. Reid has signed a 3-year deal with the North Carolina Panthers.

Black teen Laquan McDonald was viciously gunned down by Chicago cops in 2014. The police video of the account was suppressed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel until he won a hotly contested mayoral race. Although the teen brandished a knife, the barrage of bullets came after he attempted to flee the police—meaning McDonald was no longer a threat.

What the NFL and the white structure fail to understand is that the debate and protests around acts of racism and institutional racism are not going away.

Jason Van Dyke has been convicted of second-degree murder in the McDonald case and sentenced to seven years in prison. The police reports of David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney conflicted with the facts of the video. The three were charged with conspiracy when they claimed the teen tried to attack them with a knife, obviously trying to justify the lethal act of Van Dyke.

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Judge Domenica Stephenson said that the wide discrepancies between the officers’ report and the video were not “proof that they were lying.” The cops were acquitted and not required to be accountable for their wrongdoings.

This judgment and others like it across the country were exactly the catalyst for the #TakeAKnee movement. Kaepernick’s protests were part of ongoing resistance to racism in general and specifically to racially-motivated practices of law enforcement.

The NFL attempted to put a chill on the protest, with urging from Donald Trump to come down hard on unpatriotic players. It tried to make an example of Kaepernick but all this did was to confirm that racism in America is alive and well. The front office was caught off-guard when the then-St. Louis Rams came on the field with their “hands up” after the murder of Mike Brown by a white Ferguson cop. They were ready for a Kaepernick.

What the NFL and the white structure fail to understand is that the debate and protests around acts of racism and institutional racism are not going away.

NBA superstar LeBron James continued to use his national platform to support Kaepernick. James said he hoped Kaep made a lot of money off the NFL settlement that would set up him and his family for a long time.

“Anybody that would sacrifice their livelihood for the better of all of us, I could respect that…he wanted to stand for something that was more than just him. ”

In the spirit of a few Black athletes before him, Kaepernick has used his status to elevate an issue that white America continues to ignore and earnestly take on—the issue of race. He added his voice to the national debate about the treatment of Black and Brown people by so-called law enforcers. He took on the powerful NFL and won. Whether Kaepernick gets an NFL contract or not, his place in the struggle for human dignity and racial justice is noteworthy.

jamala rogers

Jamala Rogers
BlackCommentator