SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) - Members of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers linked arms during the national anthem for Thursday Night Football. It’s the latest show of solidarity among sports teams in response to President Trump’s criticism of protests against racial injustice. KTVU spoke to Civil Rights Icon Dr. Harry Edwards, considered a pioneer in fighting racism in sports.
It’s the biggest display of athletic defiance in years, players kneeling and locking arms during the national anthem. Some would say these protests against racial injustice started with Dr. Edwards who had harsh words for President Trump.
“For the President of the United States to come out and to attack Steph Curry, to attack Colin Kaepernick, to attack Lebron James to sucker punch the Golden State Warriors and disinvite them to the White House,” said Dr. Edwards. “What he is doing is losing the battle of hearts and minds.”
Dr. Edwards is considered the architect of the 1968 Olympic project for human rights where San Jose State athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists, part of the iconic black power salute in Mexico City.
Dr. Edwards said athletes today are fighting the same struggle he did back in the 60's. While he relied on rotary phones back then to get his message heard, athletes now have social media motivated by the black lives matter movement.
“It’s the same war, it's a different battle,” said Dr. Edwards. “It's a different set of issues in many ways.”
KTVU caught up with Dr. Edwards as he was honored with a unity award from State Senator Bob Wieckowski in Santa Clara Thursday night.
“His work on racial injustice, racial prejudice is topical in the 1960s when he was a student at San Jose State, it was topical in the 70s, 80s, today it's very important,” said Wieckowski.
Dr. Edwards has served as a longtime consultant with the 49ers and is an advisor to the player who started these current protests Quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Dr. Edwards thinks Kaepernick should be named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and nominated for a Noble Peace Prize. He along with Steph Curry are puzzled as to why Kaepernick wasn't on the Sports Illustrated protest cover.
“I can understand why Steph would be upset about being on the cover if Kaepernick isn't there because Kaepernick was the one who set the table in terms of what the protest was about,” said Dr. Edwards.
Dr. Edwards said the only way to know how authentic these protests are is to move from protests to progress. He hopes the NFL owners and athletes will support and fund programs to fight injustice moving forward.