Colin Kaepernick’s stand against racial inequality and injustice has been a lightning rod, both in the NFL and politically speaking. A number of progressives support his right to sit during the national anthem as a demonstration of free speech and a call to action following a series of controversial police shootings. Many conservatives, however, have criticized his protest as disparaging commentary on the men and women who serve the United States and a distraction from the sport of football.
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry made it clear on which side of the fence he stands.
The Golden State Warriors superstar and Charlotte native attended Sunday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, posting a “#FreeKaep” message on social media in support of the former Niners quarterback, who remains without an NFL job after becoming a free agent in March.
“He definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.
“Obviously his stance and his peaceful protest when he was playing here kind of shook up the world,” Curry said, “and I think for the better. But hopefully he gets back in the league — because he deserves to be here and he deserves an opportunity to play. He’s in his prime and can make a team better.”
Curry said, though, that he hoped most of all that from Kaepernick’s protests that “all that he’s gone through in the past year actually leads to some awakening.”
There is widespread debate over whether Kaepernick’s absence from a league that started the likes of Tom Savage and Scott Tolzien on Sunday is the result of a form of blackballing by owners or a talent issue. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, with many teams likely believing, accurately or not, that Kaepernick is not good enough to start and draws too much attention as a backup.
Kaepernick has made his share of mistakes in his quest for racial equality and criminal justice reform, most notably in his defense of Fidel Castro and failure to vote in the 2016 election, but those errors in judgment are far outweighed by the good that he’s done, from sparking a nationwide conversation on injustice to following through on a pledge to donate $1 million to causes aligned with his beliefs.
Likewise, Kaepernick’s quarterback rating of 90.7 last season ranked squarely in the middle of the league’s starters. With a Super Bowl and two NFC championship appearances also on his record, he is certainly more qualified than a number of QBs who are currently employed. Kaepernick also made it known that he would stand for the national anthem if he were signed for the 2017 season, so it’s hard to imagine his presence being a distraction beyond a few questions at each stop on the schedule.
That Curry said everything he did about Kaepernick is not groundbreaking. It is all fairly obvious, and it’s not all that different from what the Warriors point guard offered on the subject to CNBC in 2016:
“I love that there’s freedom of speech and he can stand up for what he believes in. There’s going to be people that disagree with him and there’s going to be people that agree with him, which is what I think our country stands for, which hopefully will drive the conversation to bettering the equal rights and treatment of African Americans and people of color.
“So I applaud him for taking a stand, and hopefully the conversation is about what his message was and not, ‘Is he going to stand or is he going to sit for the national anthem?’ The conversation is started and should continue.”
That Curry reiterated those comments now that Kaepernick is unemployed is no less important, though, because it is more than what many prominent NFL figures have offered on the matter.
Curry’s remarks came just days after the NBA and its players’ association sent a joint missive to their members endorsing social awareness campaigns, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
“None of us operates in a vacuum,” a letter co-signed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michel Roberts reportedly said. “Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly. Fortunately, you are not only the world’s greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference.”
Curry’s comments also came just days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told FS1 of Kaepernick’s continued unemployment: “I’m not a football expert. I’m a huge fan. I have a role as commissioner also, but for me I watch the games and enjoy and let the football people make those decisions.”
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