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.