Saying that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick “sacrificed his career because he wanted to make his country better,” a USA Today sports columnist has given a major push to an effort to put Kaepernick into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Columnist Nancy Armour framed putting Kaepernick next to legends like Dick Butkus and Mike Ditka in Canton as a way to address “the unjust ways Black people are treated” and “the racism they so routinely endure.”
Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, saying at the time, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
That started a trend of anthem protests that spread throughout the sports world.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 after leading the team to a 1-10 record in games he started. He has not played professional football since then.
“Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, began protesting four years ago after a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by law enforcement officers, most of whom were white,” Armour wrote. “Despite the glaringly obvious — that America has a different set of standards for Black and brown people, with harmful and sometimes even deadly consequences — Kaepernick was vilified.
“The current President of the United States raged at him. Fans derided him. And NFL owners ultimately decided profits were worth more than principles. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season, effectively blackballed while guys like Austin Davis, Chad Henne and Josh Johnson were given a shot.”
He has been nominated as a Contributor by Bob Birkett of Vermont, who discovered that there are no restrictions on who can submit nominations.
“You think, ‘What can I do?'” Birkett said. “I can’t force an owner to hire the guy. But darn it! I can put him in the Hall of Fame.”
The Hall of Fame defines a Contributor as “an individual who has “made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.”
Birkett’s letter said that fits Kaepernick perfectly. “Mr. Kaepernick has shown exceptional courage in highlighting the damaging effects of racial injustice on black people and on our society as a whole. His respectful kneeling posture has created a powerful symbol for those who are oppressed by our society,” he said.
Armour backed that view, writing, “It’s hard to argue that Kaepernick, who sacrificed his career because he wanted to make his country better, doesn’t at least deserve a debate.”
Hall rules mean Kaepernick won’t be considered until the Class of 2022.
Birkett likened the former quarterback’s anthem protests to boxer Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve during the Vietnam War.
“The initial reaction was, ‘Holy cow what a horrible thing.’ Then a little while later, it’s like, ‘Man, that guy had some guts,'” he said.
Armour wrote that “racist policies and practices that have been baked into our judicial, financial and educational systems,” and quoted Birkett as saying “It seems so clear that black people are getting a terrible — they’re treated terribly.”
The idea of putting Kaepernick in the Pro Football Hall of Fame caused a stir on Twitter.
Don’t tell me you’re suggesting that a man who lost his job to Blaine Freaking Gabbert should be in the Hall of Fame with company of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway. This ain’t it. #Kaepernick #NFL https://t.co/GwouDEvXeN
— Sam Collinsworth (@MOMediaSam) September 2, 2020
Fan nominates Kaepernick for Hall of Fame: Not only no, but HELL NO! Inductees in the Hall of Fame have been voted in by abilities & performance on the field. Kaepernick is in a class with Jay Cutler! He is not worthy to dust the displays in Canton.
— Justice4America (@IMakeTheCall1) September 3, 2020
Can’t believe it. Kaepernick nominated for the Hall of Fame??? What are these people thinking.
— Frank Gunter (@fjgunter) September 3, 2020
Because of his social activism, should Colin Kaepernick be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
— Steve Mason (@VeniceMase) September 2, 2020
Kaepernick’s on-field performance would not draw any consideration from Hall of Fame voters. His career touchdown passes (72) and passing yards (12,271) rank 174th and 167th, respectively, in league history. His record as a starter was a subpar 28-30.
In Birkett’s view, though, Kaepernick deserves credit for starting the vast national debate about the police, one that has gathered steam in light of recent incidents between officers and black suspects.
“These shootings are so blatant, I think it would be talked about. But I think he made it easier to get people talking about, ‘We really do have a problem.’ I think it helped,” Birkett said.
He said one group has yet to get with the program.
“Racists are putting all of this time and energy and effort into putting black people down,” Birkett said. “The time has come and gone to let that go. I hope it can happen. I hope we make progress.”
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