I didn’t watch the Superbowl.
To be honest, I don’t know a single person that did.
Football used to be a pretty big sport in my house. My mom would make delicious game day food (wings, potato skins, Rice Krispy treats, and Kool-Aid slushies!). We’d decorate to correspond with the colors of whatever team we were rooting for. We got invested. We cheered loudly. It was fun.
Then, longtime 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did what was apparently unthinkable.
He kneeled during the national anthem, and white America lost their freaking minds. Chaos ensued!
His name was dragged through the headlines and across social media. He was called an anarchist, a terrorist, and a traitor to his country. He is blacklisted by the NFL, receiving no contract offers while players with worse records and far less experience are signed. He filed a grievance against the NFL to no avail.
By refusing to stand for the national anthem in protest of the systems of oppression that allow Black people to be brutalized and murdered without consequence, he somehow betrayed America.
America itself is so intertwined with these racist systems, to protest against their forces is to protest against the country as a whole.
It’s a devastating truth I had never before seen white America embrace so wholeheartedly.
We, along with hundreds of thousands of others, stopped watching the NFL in solidarity with Colin. It sucked at first, until we realized we could still have Super Bowl parties with delicious game day food. We watched a movie instead. Eventually, we fell out of touch with the stats of players and teams and got more into NBA games.
But I continue to follow the words and actions of Colin.
His influence has transcended the sports world. He will forever exist in a realm beyond that of a famous football player. His legacy will be that of a brave, brilliant man who risked his entire career to better the movement of his people.
I’ve met him.
Being a friend of my dad’s, he came to our house once for breakfast. I can safely say he is the largest man I have ever met in my life. Standing at 6’4” with an afro that adds almost another foot, I expected him to be loud and a bit abrasive, much like myself.
Instead, he was soft-spoken. Gentle. He ate vegan pancakes and encouraged us all to try more vegan foods. He played video games with my little brother and beat us all in Mario Kart.
He was just a man, one who had unintentionally taken on an entire movement, who was learning to shoulder it well.
Sports records will be made and broken.
Name after name will be inducted into halls of fame, and forgotten with time.
Colin Kaepernick’s legacy will live far beyond all of that.