Colin Kaepernick's decision to take a knee will be his lasting legacy | Bob Brookover

Paul Newberry-Playing Politics
Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick (No. 7) triggered a national debate by taking a knee during the national anthem and more than a year later it rages on.

Colin Kaepernick lost the Super Bowl and is out of work, but history is going to remember him as a winner even if he never plays another NFL down. The mushrooming events of the NFL’s most recent weekend cemented his legacy and it could not be any greater even if he matched Tom Brady’s five Super Bowl victories.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback emerged as a rebel with a cause last summer. The message he sent by kneeling during the national anthem has mesmerized the nation. You may disagree with Kaepernick, who peacefully wanted to raise awareness of the social injustices in our country, but you cannot deny the lasting impression and the difficult but necessary discussions and reactions he has triggered.

Camera icon MICHAEL CONROY / AP
Cleveland Browns fans show their allegiance to President Trump on an issue that started last season when former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest social injustice.

So much has happened since Kaepernick first took a knee during a preseason game last summer that it is easy to forget exactly what he said in explaining his action.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” the quarterback said at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The cause of Kaepernick’s discontent was the rash of police shootings around the country that left African American citizens dead without retribution being paid by the accused officers. At times, Kaepernick’s message was flawed. He did not help things by wearing socks that depicted police officers as pigs because the majority of law enforcement officers are in the business for the right reasons. The socks were divisive.

Kaepernick, 29, hurt his cause even more last November when he declined to exercise his vote in the 2016 presidential election.

“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” Kaepernick said. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression. And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there. The system still remains intact that oppresses people of color.”

He said he was not even registered to vote. His stand on that subject was stupid and self-defeating.

On the other hand, Kaepernick has sacrificed his career, his time, his reputation, and a boatload of money to fight for his cause. The majority of us would not have the courage to do what he has done.

Even though he was out of work this offseason, Kaepernick stood firm on his pledge to donate $1 million to organizations that he believes help communities. Some of those organizations are controversial, but it is his money and not everybody sees things the same way. Examine Colin Kaepernick’s financial contributions and you will see he is willing to do far more than simply take a knee.

Of course has also inspired others. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was always a thoughtful man, but the nudge from Kaepernick’s decision last season also made him a proactive one. You can see Jenkins every week during the season raising his right fist in protest of the same social injustices that fueled Kaepernick’s anthem kneel-down.

What you don’t see as often is Jenkins taking the time to talk to law enforcement officials about how to improve relations between the police and African American communities.

Is it not those actions that matter so much more than the anthem protests?

This, however, is so much bigger than Kaepernick’s initial message now. It may have started as a party of one, but Sunday it reached its crescendo with the help of adversarial comments from President Trump at a campaign-style rally in Alabama.

The president wants the “SOBs off the field” and “fired” if they refuse to stand for “our great national anthem.” Remarkably, the president managed to unite the players with the owners and even commissioner Roger Goodell, all of whom spoke out against Trump’s divisive remarks.

The best story of the week came out of Tennessee, where Titans receiver Rishard Matthews took a knee for the first time before his team’s home game against Seattle last week in response to Trump’s comments in Alabama.

He was not the only NFL player to do so, but his knee had more impact than most for a couple of reasons. He was Kaepernick’s former teammate at the University of Nevada and he is from a military family. His father served in the military for 23 years and his brother was killed two years ago in Afghanistan. He also backed up his anthem actions by promising to donate $75,000 to oppressed communities.

“I’ve actually had a lot of military people reach out to me to say, ‘Good job for standing up for your rights and people who don’t have a voice,’ ” Matthews said in an ESPN.com story. “They support me whether I decide to stand or kneel. People keep using the military as a distraction. It’s not anything about the military. It’s about social injustice.”

Colin Kaepernick took a knee for that cause 13 months ago and it has been amazing to watch what he started.

Thumbs up

The Jacksonville Jaguars have not been to the playoffs since 2007 and have just one playoff win in the 21st century, but they sure look like the most improved team in football right now, thanks to a defense that is first in sacks with 13 and tied for second with eight takeaways.

Thumbs down

And in his 141st career game, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was at his all-time worst. The former Audubon High and University of Delaware star completed just 8 of 18 passes for a career-low 28 yards before being benched in a 44-7 loss to Jacksonville over in England. His passer rating for the game was a career-worst 12.0 and his three-game passer rating of 65.2 is the worst among  QBs who have thrown at least 60 passes this season. Somehow the Ravens are still 2-1.

Games of the week

Early afternoon Sunday

Buffalo at Atlanta

The Bills are off to a 2-1 start, thanks in part to their leading rusher (LeSean McCoy) and their leading receiver (Jordan Matthews). This, however, is their toughest test of the season. Only the Falcons and the Chiefs remained unbeaten through Week 3 and Atlanta has averaged 35.8 points per game at home since the start of last season.

Late afternoon Sunday

Oakland at Denver

This might be the best division in the NFL, but both teams are coming off road losses in which their young quarterbacks struggled. Denver’s Trevor Siemian was intercepted twice and sacked three times at Buffalo. Oakland’s Derek Carr was intercepted twice, sacked four times, and threw for just 118 yards at Washington.

Sunday night

Indianapolis at Seattle

The Seahawks are 1-2 and the only win was an ugly one at home against winless San Francisco. The Seahawks made a bunch of offseason moves to restore their running game, but  it has continued to sputter. More shocking, the Seahawks have allowed a league-high 5.3 yards per rush on defense. A visit from the Colts, who will play again without quarterback Andrew Luck, should help Seattle straighten some things out.

Monday night

Washington at Kansas City

The Redskins have made the Eagles’ opening-day win at FedEx Field look really impressive by rebounding for consecutive victories over the Rams and Raiders. QB Kirk Cousins was the NFC offensive player of the week after completing 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards and three TDs against Oakland. The Chiefs have had a touchdown from 50 yards or more in an NFL-record nine straight games.