Back in the day, when my brother and I would start roughhousing, which would undoubtedly become a heated physical confrontation within minutes, we would invariably hear my grandmother’s slippers, slowly scuffing across the wooden floor in our 11th floor apartment, heading in our direction.
In her North Carolina-tinged, slow southern drawl, she’d say without raising her voice, “Arli, Darrit (Ali, Derek), it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” And then she’d shuffle back to whatever it was that she was doing.
That always tickled me, and I often felt that at some point and time in her life, she must have seen someone, or perhaps a few folks, lose an eye over something that started as innocent fun.
Lately, with Colin Kaepernick and his evolving situation from a player who followed his conscience to make a statement – which has irrefutably led to his current status as an unemployed NFL quarterback – to someone who’s talking the talk and walking the walk as it relates to the taboo topic of social justice and equality in America, I continue to hear my grandmother’s voice.
But looking at Kaep, his personal growth, his message, his desire and search for truth, I hear her saying something different.
Because when it comes to the almighty NFL, with an ownership collective and paying fan base that is staunchly in line with long-held, conservative ideals around homogeneity and an America of Alternative Facts that isn’t in line with reality, Kaepernick has touched a raw nerve within the social and socio-political spectrum that is bubbling up.
What he has come to represent is morphing into something much bigger, something that no one could have expected when he first took a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and social inequities in America.
“It’s all fun and games until someone gains an eye.”
That’s what I’m hearing now, a significant twist on my grandmother’s old refrain.
Because Kaepernick was a beloved figure when he was leading the San Francisco 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans against the Baltimore Ravens. Back then, we know little about the man other than his football prowess, and all the fluffy stories put out about him being adopted by a white family. His story seemed to have the makings of a Hollywood movie, much like The Blind Side, where the young black man rises above his circumstances thanks to the family that raised him.
He was admired even further by many outside of 49ers fans when his athletic journey was examined.
Remember those stories about him being a baseball pitcher that wanted to play college football? How the major NCAA gridiron powers never bothered to recruit him? How the University of Nevada never even came to one of his high school games, and only offered him a late scholarship after an assistant coach saw him dominate a high school hoops game while suffering through a 102-degree fever? How no other school offered him a football scholarship? How as a sophomore, he became just the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 or more yards in a single season.
These are just a few highlights from Colin Kaepernick’s incredible 2010 season at Nevada.
How he became the only player in college football history to duplicate that feat in back-to-back years? How, by the time his senior year was complete, he was a highly regarded NFL prospect and the only quarterback in the history of Division I FBS college football to have passed for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000 yards during his career, the only D-I FBS quarterback to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons?
The man could do no wrong, until he tried to do something that was right.
And how do most NFL fans and owners feel about him now? That’s a rhetorical question, because we all know that he’s considered a scourge, an ungrateful jock who couldn’t stick to the script of playing games. He tossed aside all of that goodwill by following his conscience, looking at society with a critical eye and saying, “This is not right.”
How can we truly celebrate independence on a day that intentionally robbed our ancestors of theirs? To find my independence I went home. https://t.co/hniYGJeLxG
Kaep created another firestorm yesterday with his social media posts about his trip to Ghana, where he visited former slave trading sites as well as touring local villages and a hospital on the day that America was awash in patriotism with its 4th of July celebrations.
He posted a short video of the trip, along with the Frederick Douglass quote: What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?
And with that, the deaf, dumb and blind lost their mind.
In a quest to find my personal independence, I had to find out where my ancestors came from, he wrote in another post on Instagram. I set out tracing my African ancestral roots, and it lead me to Ghana. Upon finding out this information, I wanted to visit the sites responsible for myself (and many other Black folks in the African Diaspora) for being forced into the hells of the middle passage. I wanted to see a fraction of what they saw before reaching the point of no return. I spent time with the/my Ghanaian people, from visiting the local hospital in Keta and the village of Atito, to eating banku in the homes of local friends, and paying my respects to Kwame Nkrumahs Memorial Park. I felt their love, and truly I hope that they felt mine in return.
The Ghana trip followed his previous one to Egypt alongside 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin.
9,618 Likes, 90 Comments – Marquise Goodwin (@marquisegoodwin) on Instagram: “KMT // the black land // Day 1”
A few days ago, current 49ers GM John Lynch said that Kaepernick was having an image crisis, and that he could help his chances of being accepted back into the league if he made it clear that he’s committed to being an NFL signal-caller. Fox Sports commentator Shannon Sharpe responded by saying that he believes Kaep is being taught a lesson and the NFL is sticking it to him because he didnt bow down.
Well, Kaep, to the delight of few and consternation of many (just check the comments section on any story about his 4th of July post while in Ghana) is showing no interest in pandering to the media with some public relations campaign where he begs for another chance. Teams know that he’s in shape and that he wants to play. And his former coaches have dispelled the myth of him being a distraction, or a player with no skills who’s washed up.
So what’s the deal? (That’s another rhetorical question by the way)
In Frederick Douglass’ famous words that he delivered on July 5th in 1852, in a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he merely asked and answered a simple question, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
In his search for his own personal truth, Kaepernick finds – like many others who are disheartened with America’s past and current treatment of people of color – validity in Douglass’ words that still ring true today, 165 years after he delivered them.
When people dismissed him, saying he was all talk and no action after the initial shockwave of his National Anthem protest, Kaepernick donated his gigantic sneaker collection to homeless people in San Francisco, helped raise funds to fly a plane full of food and water to help the struggling population of Somalia, made a $50,000 donation to Meals on Wheels, donated hundreds of custom suits to a charity that helps people get a job after they’re released from jail and has donated $700,000 to charity over the past nine months as part of a pledge last season where he promised to donate a total of $1 million to help communities in need. In addition, he runs his “Know your rights” camp in various cities throughout the country.
People took offense to his post on the 4th of July, but they should have taken offense to our great country’s pre-existing conditions that he’s been pointing out, and the terminal sickness of racism that will ultimately be our downfall unless it can be properly addressed, honestly examined and an infrastructure of change and reconciliation implemented to make America be truthful to its own words.
It was all fun and games when Colin Kaepernick was running and throwing all those touchdowns. But now that he’s pointing out truths that are hard for some to swallow, America doesn’t have any more love for him. All of those bets are now off
They say the truth shall set you free.
But in there here and now, the truth doesn’t set you free. It makes you become enraged. And for people that can’t handle the truth, they become livid, defensive, vicious and ugly when it’s pointed out.
It’s all fun and games, I guess, until someone of his Kapernick’s stature gains an eye.