It was August 26, 2016 when the nation witnessed Colin Kaepernick sit down during the National Anthem before the San Francisco 49ers final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. What seemed like a small gesture to bring attention to systematic racism and police shootings of unarmed black men, turned out to be the first step towards the last days of his NFL career.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after the game. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Out of respect for the misconstrued narrative that he was disrespecting the flag, Kaepernick’s peaceful protest evolved into kneeling.
“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick said. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better.”
Unfortunately, current events have shown us that America hasn’t gotten better. Four years after Kaepernick took a knee, black lives still don’t matter. The entity that is supposed to serve and protect is killing African-Americans with no fear of punishment.
While a vast majority of society tried to dismiss his protest, the fact remains that we are constantly reminded why he took a knee. Especially in the midst of new tensions that are sweeping cities across the world following the murder of George Floyd. The incident with Floyd was prefaced by the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in a white neighborhood and Breonna Taylor who was shot eight times in her home.
Floyd was killed while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee into his neck for at least nine minutes. Despite the outrage from onlookers and Floyd yelling “I can’t breathe,” Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after his body went limp. Kaepernick recently responded to the protests that have sparked up as a result.
Although he is no longer on the football field, Kaepernick still matters for reasons beyond using his NFL platform to shed light on racism and injustices. He continues to protect minority communities through various initiatives associated with his Know Your Rights Camp.
The Know Your Rights Camps started in 2016 to serve as a safe space for youth, particularly Black youth ages 12-18, to gain legal knowledge for navigating encounters with police officers and to thrive in the areas of health, education, tech, self-empowerment and finance. The camps have engaged 1,400+ youth in seven cities including Baltimore, Atlanta, and Miami.
Kaepernick also launched and contributed $100,000 to a coronavirus relief fund aiding black and brown communities affected by COVID-19. The fund will go toward food, shelter relief, education, personal protective equipment and incarcerated people to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and provide resources to underserved populations.
“Black and brown communities are being disproportionately devastated by COVID-19 because of hundreds of years of structural racism,” Kaepernick said in a video he posted on social media. “That’s why we’ve established the ‘Know Your Rights’ Camp COVID-19 Relief Fund to help address these issues. We need each other now more than ever.”
Finally, in light of George Floyd, Kaepernick announced a legal defense fund initiative. The initiative has identified and teamed up with top defense lawyers in the Minneapolis area to support protesters who may need legal resources.
Kaepernick has been without a job since 2017 because he decided to kneel to combat social justice issues we are still facing today. Nonetheless, he will always go down in history as a man who put his career on the line for a greater purpose. This is far more rewarding than anything the NFL can offer.
For more articles from Carita Parks, follow @CaritaCParks on Twitter and @therealcarita on Instagram.