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November 18, 2019

This is the web version of raceAhead, Fortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.


Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, activist, and nobody’s fool, outmaneuvered the NFL on Saturday, after he pulled the plug on a poorly planned workout at the Atlanta Falcons training facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. 


I have a sneaking suspicion that he had this secret play in his pocket all along.


Kaepernick has alleged that the NFL is denying him employment in retaliation for his kneeling protest against police violence. But this workout, his first in three years, was suspicious from the start. No media was invited. Kaepernick’s team was barred from creating a video record of the event. He was given almost no advance notice of the workout and had just hours to review and agree to the terms. He was asked to sign a liability waiver his attorney and agent deemed “unusual.” The League was unable to say how many teams had committed to come, or which personnel would be in attendance.


Even to an unjaundiced eye, the messy event seemed designed to throw a bone to Kaepernick, while giving the League full power to control the narrative on his ability.


Then, an hour before the workout was to begin—and to quote the great sports columnist William C. Rhoden—Kaepernick “called an audible” on the NFL. What else could he do? “Why would a man who meticulously constructed the image of a football activist, shunned by the league, validate a sham tryout by participating it?” says Rhoden in The Undefeated.


Rhoden had a front row seat to the action:


“[Kaepernick] canceled the workout at Flowery Branch and switched it to Charles Drew High School, an hour’s drive away. I was in a car outside the Falcons’ training facility when word spread that plans had changed.


This was not some hastily drawn-up play in the sand on a playground. This shrewd, well-organized move took everybody by surprise. An audible that caught the NFL napping.


The workout was executed with efficiency and coordination. By the time the media had shifted from the Falcons training camp to the high school, Kaepernick’s security team was already in place. There was security at the entrance to the high school checking off names. The security at the entrance to the field lined up the media, checking bags, then sending media personnel through.


There was even a live feed


Afterward, the ordinarily press-shy Kaepernick addressed the crowd. 


“Our biggest thing with everything today, was making sure we had transparency with what went on. We weren’t getting that elsewhere, so we came out here,” he said, thanking the reporters in attendance. “I’ve been ready for three years, I’ve been denied for three years.”


By the way, Charles Drew High School is named for the black surgeon who invented blood plasma, a breakthrough innovation which saved thousands of lives in World War II. He was also an outstanding athlete. As a post-grad, Drew earned the money to pay for medical school by working two years as the first athletic director and football coach at the historically black private Morgan College in Baltimore.


Please insert your chess versus checkers jokes here. 


So, while the #StillWithKap hashtag trended on Saturday—and pundits fought about what the venue change meant—it appears that Kaepernick not only reclaimed the narrative, but the higher ground as well. 


“We have nothing to hide,” said Kaepernick to reporters. “So, we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them, to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”


Ellen McGirt


@ellmcgirt


Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com


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On Point


The 2019 Fortune Global Forum kicks off in Paris This year’s theme, “Action 2020: Reinventing for a New Decade,” builds on the Forum’s intention of bringing global business and economic leaders together “to actively engage in discussions about the most pressing issues facing today's business community, share best practices, and propose possible solutions,” writes Fortune’s Claire Zillman. Participants this year include Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider, and Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid. Follow coverage of the conference here and view the livestream here.
Fortune


Some 58% of Native Americans lack household plumbing This is one of the stunning findings from a new report released today called "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States." One in three white Americans are water insecure, but Black and Latinx households are twice as likely as their white peers to lack access to clean water and basic plumbing in their homes. The report was commissioned by DigDeep, a non-profit that has helped build water systems on Navajo land. George McGraw, DigDeep's founder, says that until now, it was impossible to understand the scope of the problem. "No one could tell us, from federal to state agencies to other nonprofits, just how many Americans still don't have running water or a working toilet where they live."
NPR


Prominent Black South Carolinians surprised to learn they had been identified as supporters of Buttigieg’s plan to help the Black community It’s an awkward misstep for the Buttigieg campaign, who has yet to persuade Black voters that the candidate understands their issues. “The Douglass Plan: A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America,” named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, includes provisions for criminal justice reform and health care. But several people whose name were attached to the plan said that they didn’t understand they were endorsing it. They also found it wanting. “Somebody brought it to my attention, and it was alarming to me, because even though I had had conversations with the campaign, it was clear to me, or at least I thought I made it clear to them, that I was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter—actually co-chair of the state, and I was not seeking to endorse their candidate or the plan,” says state Rep. Ivory Thigpen.
The Intercept


Kanye West performs onstage during his "Jesus Is King" album and film experience at The Forum on October 23, 2019 in Inglewood, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA


Kanye West is “the greatest artist that God has ever created” Kanye West took his controversial Sunday Service tour to Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch and home to pastor Joel Osteen, to share the gospel according to his latest album, Jesus Is King. He said quite a few interesting words. He began stating that the "devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers," then reassured the crowd that change was coming because "now, the greatest artist that God [Kanye]has ever created is working for him.” He also believes that the media is sending subliminal messages to children to entice them to join the world’s "robotic, numeric system." Tickets to the Sunday Service were distributed through Ticketmaster and were gone in minutes.
USA Today


On Background


What do your representatives plan to do about hate speech? Do they have any ideas beyond “thoughts and prayers?” The good people at ProPublica decided to find out. They’ve been collaborating with newsrooms around the country on a groundbreaking Documenting Hate project, and they've has asked lawmakers to complete a survey on hate violence. Among the questions: Are hate crimes a problem in your state? Should Congress do something about hate crimes and white supremacist violence in your state? If so, what specifically? Click through to see who bothered to respond. If your representative hasn't answered yet, you can learn how to nudge them here.
ProPublica


The First Thanksgiving in 1621, after a painting by Jean Leon Gerome; screen print, 1932.
Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images


What were the “first settlers” really celebrating? History, we now know, is a web of lies written by the victors and amplified by marketers. Turns out there is plenty of mythmaking around the earliest Thanksgiving celebrations, which were largely local and not nearly as inclusive as history books might have us believe. And it wasn’t a turning point: The relationship between the English and the local Wampanoag people quickly deteriorated and led to a brutal war. The official nationalized version of the holiday didn’t happen until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in the hopes that the unifying imagery of Pilgrims and Indians coming together to eat, would heal a nation torn apart by civil war. Oh, and pumpkin pie once triggered a nineteenth-century culture war. Enjoy! And pass the Yankee values, please.
Fortune


What soldiers eat around the world There is a strangely wonderful collection of “unboxing” videos online, but instead of technology, they’re of MRE’s—Meal(s), Ready-To-Eat—taken by a YouTuber called “KiwiDude,” who procured, opened, and then tasted the combat rations given to soldiers serving their countries all over the world. On one hand, imagining what would pass as filling comfort food for different soldiers is a touching exercise. At 20 minutes plus, per video, it’s also a deeply nerdy project. Atlas Obscura offers a list of the best of the bunch.
Atlas Obscura


Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.


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Quote


“There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”

—Bryan Stevenson, from his book, Just Mercy



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