Kaepernick, A Man in Transition

Colin Kaepernick’s perspective has surely matured. After bursting onto the scene in 2012, he began to sculpt himself into an All-American franchise QB. Fans were dazzled by his speed, body and pet tortoise. He appeared on all the prerequisite magazine covers: GQ, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated.The boxes on the checklist for NFL stardom were being ticked off one by one. But it took just one speed bump to put it all in peril. Realizing how tenuous a career in the NFL is, his manicured public image suddenly seemed less important. This year, he’s chosen to put aside the trivial and tackle an issue pertinent to us all, popular or not.

Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem last week to “stand with the people that are being oppressed.” In doing so, he took a stance on racial inequality similar to various other high profile athletes in recent months, albeit in a far more incendiary way.

Reactions have been mixed, but largely they illustrate the inability of sports fans to accept the duality of human experience. On the one hand, yes, Kaepernick is an extremely gifted athlete put in positions throughout his life to succeed at levels most can’t imagine. But on the other, he is an African American man that has come to age in a time of great social rift. He was insulated from some of its direct effects by way of his upbringing. But still, today’s world is filled with microaggressions obfuscated by the sinuous logic congregated by the wonder that is the internet, making it impossible for a young Kaepernick to remain blind to reality. His parents, too, made it a point to ensure Colin knew who he was.

As a young professional athlete, he had to deal with being a black man at the forefront of a storied franchise, in a position traditionally held by a white man. Kaep played the image game. Remember, Republicans buy jerseys too, but a reporter still compared him to a prisoner just out on parole.

Now, with an uncertain future, Kaepernick is taking back his voice — and I don’t blame him. His method was bound to attract controversy. He knew that going in, but there are those criticizing his credibility on the issue. Not only is this inherently a microaggression, it’s also just inane. Put simply, the claim refuses to acknowledge the role of prominent stakeholders in affecting change.

The road forward will be an unfamiliar one for Kaepernick, with few sure starting job prospects. They may be even fewer now, but one thing is sure, the finding of his voice signals a man in transition, ready to tackle whatever it is that lies ahead.