San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has become a political lightning rod following his decision to sit as the national anthem is played before NFL preseason games, made a powerful step to move his protest “into a more active and impactful direction” on Thursday night.
At a press conference following the 49er’s win over the San Diego Chargers last night Kaepernick announced that he would be donating the first $1 million of his $11.9 million salary to “social justice-oriented” community service organizations. Contrast that with Donald Trump, who has been called “the least charitable billionaire in the world,” having donated a grand total of $3.7 million out of his alleged billions – and to his own foundation at that.
Kaepernick’s protest first received widespread attention last week when he sat during the national anthem and issued a statement saying that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
His stand has been praised as the most significant protest in sports since Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ raised fists at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and he took it even further earlier this week by practicing in socks with the traditional anti-police image of a pig.
Despite this strong imagery, Kaepernick has taken pains to break through the nationalistic echo chamber and make it clear that he is “not anti-American,” for example by saluting the military at last night’s game in San Diego.
Indeed, as is so often the case, Kaepernick has demonstrated in his statements a much more profound understanding of and appreciation for American values than the his conservative critics who claim to worship those values. Speaking last week he said, “I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee so I have the utmost respect for them.”
While his protest has inevitably drawn fierce criticism from the sort of nationalist right-wing bigots who prefer to deny that structural oppression exists and would enforce mandatory flag worship a la North Korea if they could, right-minded Americans from across the political spectrum – athletes, politicians, veterans, and more – have come out in support of Kaepernick. Now, he is, as he put it, “putting [his] money where [his] mouth is” and moving forward from “talking about the ‘why’ of his views on social injustice” to “the ‘how’ of creating progressive resolutions.”
Kaepernick has not offered details about exactly what groups he will contribute to, but sources near him have said that he is aiming to foster “active, goal-oriented dialogue” with police departments, social leaders, and legislators. We salute and applaud his efforts to tackle the structural oppression that continues to plague people of color in America.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.