(CBS Local)–Colin Kaepernick has been praised, scrutinized and criticized time and time again over the past two-plus years since his peaceful protest during the national anthem while he was quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.
When he was unable to find a new team following the 2016-17 season, he filed a collusion case against the league and its owners and this past Friday, it was announced that the league had settled with the former quarterback.
In the meantime, Kaepernick has continued his activism, running the Know Your Rights Camp for children throughout the United States to educate young children of color on their civil rights. Kaepernick’s role as a community activist and organizer makes him the latest in a long line of athletes who have sacrificed prime years of their careers in order to push the conversation around civil rights forward.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, a man who knows a thing or two about activism, told CBS Local that athletes have always played a big role in these movements because they have a different makeup that makes them winners.
“Athletes have that special something that makes them winners,” said Jackson in an interview with CBS Local. “You had Jackie Robinson who chooses to take the suffering on himself for the greater good. Curt Flood sacrificed his career for free agency. Spencer Haywood sacrifices and says I have a right to play because I can function on that level, he won. And now, Colin Kaepernick is winning as well.”
“Every time these athletes push the bar back because they’re so big and touch base with so many people, it makes us better,” continued Jackson. “We thank God that he and the NFL have worked out the settlement now, and hopefully he’ll be back on the field next year because he can play.”
However, despite all that Kaepernick has done to advance the conversation surrounding racial and social inequality in the country, he is seen as a villain by many. Unfortunately, for Jackson, this is an all to familiar scene. He has watched throughout his life as many athletes and activists have been vilified during their prime before being celebrated later in life. That dichotomy frustrates him.
“When Ali could talk, they didn’t want to hear what he had to say. When he couldn’t talk, they wanted him to be a spokesman. They are confused about what his greatness was,” said Jackson. “Here was a guy that in the middle of his career sacrificed millions for a peace protest against the war. When Trump goes to meet the head of North Korea next week in Vietnam, that is the war that Ali said was the wrong war, a racist war and that it had to end. We did not win the war, we never should have been involved in the first place but he sacrificed to help make peace possible.”
That said, Jackson wants athletes to continue to speak up and use their voice to bring about change in society because in doing so, they can make life better for those who don’t have the same strength.
“Again, whether it’s David fighting Goliath or Sampson fighting the Philistines, athletes who have these special talents and abilities must use their strengths to make life better for the weaker among us.”