Courage.

I have not been a fan of Colin Kaepernick.

It’s not really anything to do with him; I’m not a 49er fan generally. (No, I’m not a Raider fan, either.) I would probably be happier if I followed the Niners rather than the Bucs — then again, Niner fans strike me as cranky and tending to whine. Bucs fans are simply resigned to their fate.

I may not be a fan, but I respect him.

He took a stand, when he didn’t have to. He made a public gesture that would be sure to bring criticism and disdain, when he could have foresworn doing so. He could have mouthed empty phrases from the security of his professional athlete shell.

He could have done nothing, and no one would have criticized him for it.

Instead, he brought the ire of the often hysterical masses down upon his head. He knew — or had to have known — what would happen. This is Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the ’68 Olympics.  This is the team picture of Miami Heat players in hoodies drawn low to protest the murder of Trayon Martin.

This is more than those, because so many people idolize the anthem and the flag as being America, rather than  as simply symbols of the freedoms we are supposed to possess. I have read people arguing that Kepearnik  insulted veterans, or policeman, or each and every one of us personally.

No, what he did was call us out: both as a nation and more specifically as people who benefit from a system tilted in our favor. That’s not an insult, that’s a challenge: a challenge to change, a challenge to fix the brokenness in our society that falls so heavily on people and communities of color.

And he called us out now, when he is fighting for a backup quarterback position. If he were a star, still, he could be relatively assured that, criticism aside, he would still be able to play. As it is, some news reports say that the Niners are going to cut Kaepernick. If they do, either because of his time on the field or this incident off it, I doubt any other team will pick him up. He would bring too much bad publicity with him.

Pity. People say that the most important quality a quarterback possesses is leadership. If leadership is courage, and it often is, I’d say Kaepernick has demonstrated that he has that in abundance.

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