It’s been a devastating week in North America. While still firmly in the grip of a global pandemic, the death of George Floyd – an African American man – at the hands of a now disgraced white police officer, has resulted in global pain, anger, and protest.
As anti-racism protests continue to envelop some of North America’s largest cities, some of the sports world’s biggest and most influential figures have used their platforms to respond loud and clear to the public lynching of Mr. Floyd.
The movement against racial injustice in the United States was again thrust into the spotlight in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem before a game, inspiring similar action from other players and traction for his heart thumping and spirit draining conversation.
In the four years since, Kaepernick has continued to lead the relentless fight for justice and equality – even if it arguably cost him his career. Many teams refused to sign the talented but hugely controversial football star, and he quickly became ostracized by the NFL and has been a free agent since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017.
In a recent column for CNN, former NFL Vice President of Communications (2016-18) Joe Lockhart expressed that Kaepernick’s silent protests – though inspiring an important conversation within the NFL – made him “bad for business.”
Despite a pricey settlement at his departure, Kaepernick stayed in the spotlight and in public consciousness. Though he didn’t play in the 2017 season, Kaepernick-inspired protests grew after President Trump slammed NHL players who took the former quarterback’s lead.
In response to Floyd’s death, Kaepernick and his not-for-profit organization Know Your Rights Camp have launched a program to fund legal costs for people in Minneapolis who get arrested. The organization’s website now features a donation page for those who wish to contribute, as well as a submission form for protestors who have been detained. Know Your Rights Camp’s mission is to advance the liberation and well being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.
“In fighting for liberation there’s always retaliation,” said Kaepernick in a Tweet on Friday. “We must protect our Freedom Fighters. We started a legal defense initiative to give legal representation to Freedom Fighters in Minneapolis paid for by @yourrightscamp.”
On June 3, it was announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey donated $3-million to Know Your Rights Camp. The tech mongrel announced his generous donation on his own platform, stating that the money will be directed into a new fund called Start Small, LLC, which is aimed at Know Your Rights Camp.
It will be interesting to witness how differently Kaepernick – and his infamous dropping of a knee – will be perceived and spoken about in response to the murder of George Floyd. Today, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard spoke out about his team’s 2017 decision not to sign the controversial football player when they needed a quarterback. “We didn’t listen,” said Ballard. “”I didn’t listen in 2017. I love Darius Butler. He tried to explain it. I thought I heard it. I didn’t. We didn’t listen.”
He’s not alone in his sentiment.
Today, Women’s USA hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield admitted that she had a change of heart about Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem. In a statement on social media, she says that she has “listened and learned” since dismissing the quarterback in 2016.
“Instead of deleting a misinformed tweet I posted 4 years ago, I should’ve been clear back then and now – not just knowing it but I should’ve SAID it,” Coyne Schofield wrote in a tweet. “So let me be absolutely clear: It was NEVER about the flag. It was never about my family members who serve(d) It wasn’t about me. It always was and IS about George Floyd and the countless others who came before him. It’s about Justice and Equality. I know better. I will continue to DO Better.”
As Lockhart suggests in the conclusion of the CNN column, now is probably the moment for the Vikings to sign Kaepernick; now more than ever, it’s glaringly apparent why he took a knee.