Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s All Time leading scorer, and he’s coming to the defense of San Francisco Quarter Colin Kaepernick who decided not to stand during the national anthem, and has announced that he will not be standing for the first NFL game of the season upcoming in San Diego.
Kareem wrote in the Washington Post Op-Ed section that Kaepernick is protected by freedom of speech and that people criticizing him don’t understand the premise of that protection. Kaepernick has refused to stand because of the mistreatment of African-Americans by the police, amongst other grievances he has with society and the government.
Via USUncut: “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after [Muhammad] Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote, pointing out how Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised “Black Power” fists while accepting medals.
In fact, Muhammad Ali — the celebrated boxer who died earlier this year — was criticized for his ardent anti-war position at the height of the Vietnam War protests. Abdul-Jabbar was one of several prominent African American athletes to show solidarity with Ali and defend his right to speak out on important issues of the time.
Kaepernick is not the first athlete who has expressed unfavorable views of police treatment towards people of color. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and others were all NBA stars who wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in the preseason to protest what was viewed as the killing of Eric Garner by NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo after being placed in an “illegal chokehold”. Video footage shows that Garner was restrained in a manner that restricted his breathing, saying “I Can’t Breathe”. His death was the result of trying to sell loose cigarettes in front of a convenience store, and the altercation that resulted after the police were called.
First Amendment protections wouldn’t apply here since this is a personal choice within private employment, while the 1st Amendment is primarily designed to protect a person against government action directly.