SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Among the prominent African-Amercians in professional sports coming to the defense of 49er Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Jabbar spoke to a sold-out crowd of 900 at the Herbst Theater Tuesday night for an event organized by The Commonwealth Club, where he received a standing ovation.
It wasn't long before the discussion turned to Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the national anthem last weekend.
"What Colin was trying to do was trying to attract attention to an issue that is very important to him," says Jabbar.
He says he does not see Kaepernick's decision as being unpatriotic.
"Patriotism is about appreciating your country and trying to make it a better place. That's what we're supposed to be about," says Jabbar," Too many young black people are dying at the hands of police who are reacting to fear and their misunderstanding of the people they're supposed to protect and serve."
NBA Hall of Famer Bill Cartwright was in the audience. He now works for USF doing community outreach to the African-American community.
Cartwright says Kaepernick is giving a voice to those who are often unheard.
"A guy who really doesn't have to put himself at risk is willing to do that," says Cartwright.
When asked if he admired Kaepernick for that, he replied,
"He's a thoughtful young man; this is what you want to see in athletes. It reminded me of Kareem Abdul Jabbar; a thinking athlete who knows life is more than football," says John Burris, a civil rights attorney. .
Burris says he anticipated fallout such as the San Francisco Police Officers Association demanding an apology from Kaepernick.
Burris plans to join a protest scheduled for tomorrow in front of the police union.
"The POA could acknowledge that there are problems and they're committed to solving those problems as opposed to killing the messenger," says Burris.
Back at the Herbst Theater, Kareem Abdul Jabbar says Kaepernick is standing up for everyone's rights.
"He's right in line with what Mr. Jefferson said when they were putting the constitution together. It's important to protect the speech of the people you don't want to hear because freedom of speech is the basis for what America is about," says Jabbar.
Supporters say Kaepernick started a dialogue; that change is necessary.
The question is how to make things better and where do we go from here.
Part of the answer is everyone has to work together.