San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick emerged in the news a month and a half ago when he sat during the National Anthem of the team’s third preseason game. He had sat the first two games, but because he was not active, nobody noticed. Since then, Kaepernick has taken a knee for each game, and the movement he started this offseason has grown.
Of course, Kaepernick is not the first to use the National Anthem as a chance for protest. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a fist as they stood on the medal podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. However, it was NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who took protest during the National Anthem to the next level. Abdul-Rauf was born Chris Jackson. In 1991, he converted to Islam and changed his name. In 1996, he began to sit during the playing of the National Anthem believing the song represented oppression and racism. He believed standing and honoring the Anthem conflicted with his beliefs. In March of 1996, the NBA suspended him for one game, citing a rule that required players maintain a “dignified posture” during the Anthem. The NBPA backed Abdul-Rauf and he and the NBA came to a compromise, where he would stand and pray during the Anthem. Abdul-Rauf was traded by the Denver Nuggets to the Sacramento Kings the following offseason, and after seeing his playing time drop, he was released by the Kings. He reportedly could not even get an NBA tryout at the age of 29.
A picture is making its way around the Internet showing Kaepernick getting a chance to meet Abdul-Rauf. According to this source of the picture, the latter was at an event in the Bay Area, and he got a chance to meet with Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf met for the first time yesterday. Iconic moment. pic.twitter.com/I8WrMWBett— Shooter McGavin (@Radio_Reem) October 1, 2016
I imagine it was a fascinating conversation about the actions and the fallout. Although it feels like this has been going on for a while, it’s only been about six weeks of public knowledge. However, unlike Abdul-Rauf’s singular protest, Kaepernick’s is growing each week. Awareness of police brutality and social injustice have growing considerably. It is worth noting that in 1994, Bill Clinton had signed his now notorious bi-partisan crime bill into legislation. In 1996, Hillary Clinton made her now especially notorious super predator comment. Much has changed since then, and I think plenty more people recognize the problems in America. Video and the Internet have sped this up considerably. And with Kaepernick and many other athletes taking a knee, the awareness will continue to grow.
The big question for Kaepernick will be how the rest of this season plays out, and what happens next offseason. If he does not get into the starting lineup at some point, odds are good the 49ers release him if they cannot trade him. If he gets in the lineup, he still could get released or traded if he struggles. Will he land somewhere else fairly quickly, or will he end up with a fate similar to Abdul-Rauf, where nobody wants him? This situation is only going to get more interesting.