Anthem-protesting 49er Colin Kaepernick spoke with media in South Florida on Wednesday in advance of San Francisco’s game against the Miami Dolphins that takes place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Sunday. Instead of the customary media conference call, this one turn into a heated political debate. Things grew testy between Kaepernick and a particular media member of Cuban descent, in regards to Kaepernick’s past wearing of a Fidel Castro t-shirt. According to the Palm Beach Post, “When pressed about the shirt, Kaepernick first pointed out that Malcolm X also was pictured. Kaepernick said he supports Malcolm X and his willingness to be “open-minded” before forming his own views of the world. Part of that open-mindedness, he said, was meeting with the Cuban leader.”
The Miami Herald reporter pressed Kaepernick about Castro, prompting Kaepernick to say, “I’m not talking about Fidel Castro and his oppression. I’m talking about Malcolm X and what he’s done for people.”
The reporter confronted Kaepernick after the quarterback steered the conversation away from the “uncomfortable” topic of Castro. Kaepernick shot back, “One thing that Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that.”
When the reporter challenged Kaepernick on Castro’s history of breaking up families, Kaepernick responded, “We do break up families here. That’s what mass incarceration is. That was the foundation of slavery so our country has been based on that as well as the genocide of native Americans.”
After the South Florida media cited a Sports Illustrated study which said that many fans stopped watching the NFL because of Kaepernick’s anthem protests, he responded by blaming the fans: “They’re not watching football because of my stance about fighting systematic oppression and wanting the same equality and freedom for all people.
“I would say they probably need to look in the mirror at what they value. You know, if they’re OK with people being treated unfairly, being abused, being harassed, being terrorized, then the problem is more with what they’re doing in their lives than it is about watching football games.”
Even as the NFL remains perfectly unwilling to stop Kaepernick’s anthem protest, by insulting huge swaths of the NFL’s fan base and suggesting that disagreeing with his protest somehow makes them okay with the harassing and terrorizing of innocent people Kaepernick’s conduct on this phone call crosses a line that’s not protected by free speech, or any right to protest.
The NFL has a recent precedent of cracking down on players whom they believe engage in conduct insulting or offensive to people at large, or certain groups in particular. In fact, the NFL exercised that power in Miami when they suspended and fined then-Dolphins safety Don Jones for tweeting “OMG” and “horrible” after Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend on live television during the 2014 NFL Draft.
If the NFL can use that kind of disciplinary action against a player for, in their opinion, offending the relatively small gay community then they can certainly exercise that same discipline against Kaepernick for his insanely-offensive rant against far larger segments of their fan base.
Again, there’s no reason to believe the league will do that. But they could.