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Why Colin Kaepernick Is Not Backing Down

Colin KaepernickColin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up prior to a game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sep. 17th, 2016 in Charlotte,NC. Logan Bowles—AP

On Tuesday, just as protests turned violent after a fatal police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made an announcement: the $1 million dollars he plans to donate to organizations that fight for racial justice will be dispersed in monthly increments of $100,000 for the next ten months. Further, he says that a website will be created so the public can track where the money goes and how it’s spent.

It’s a brilliant move from an ally that nobody saw coming.

Ever since Kaepernick made headlines for refusing to stand for the national anthem, the athlete has proven to be a serious and determined student of both race and advocacy. So far, he has been able to walk the fine line between using his big platform to shine a light on police overreach, while preventing the long shadow of his fame from snuffing out the conversation entirely. It hasn’t been easy. The simple act of kneeling during the anthem has driven some fans wild with rage, and compelled at least two police unions to publicly threaten to boycott – selectively police – stadiums if the protests continue.

Kaepernick himself is receiving death threats. And not just from social media trolls, either. (Which, of course, are horrible enough.) Said Kaepernick to reporters, “To me, if something like that were going to happen, you’ve proved my point.”

But this donation, and the transparent way it’s being managed, keeps social justice squarely in the center of the story. Perhaps even more importantly, it offers a gateway for people to learn more about the issues themselves, as well as the barriers that professional advocates have faced for years. And Kaepernick’s own transparency has been inspiring. As a result, the number of athletes, amateur and professional, who are kneeling or raising a fist continues to climb.

I e-mailed the 49’ers for a chance to speak with Kaepernick, and was politely told that he wasn’t giving any one-on-one interviews, at least for now. Understandable. By controlling the narrative to the degree that he can, he has a chance to keep redirecting focus away from himself, and back to the point.

And the point keeps being made. This Charlotte incident occurred just days after a horrific video of the shooting of an unarmed man named Terence Crutcher by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma went public, then viral. It shocked the nation and triggered a Justice Department investigation.

Kaepernick’s critics have gone temporarily silent.

Kaepernick, however, is not backing down. “This is a perfect example of what this is about,” said Kaepernick of Crutcher’s death. “It will be very telling about what happens to the officer that killed him.”

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Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.
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