SAN FRANCISCO - Four years after former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a firestorm by quietly taking a knee during the national anthem instead of standing, the ex-NFL player took pen to paper to advocate for abolishing police and prisons.
"It’s been four years since I first protested during 'The Star-Spangled Banner,'" the athlete-turned-activist wrote on Medium. "At the time, my protest was tethered to my understanding that something was not right. I saw the bodies of Black people left dead in the streets. I saw them left dead in their cars. I saw them left dead in their backyards. I saw Black death all around me at the hands of the police. I saw little to no accountability for police officers who had murdered them. It is not a matter of bad apples spoiling the bunch but interlocking systems that are rotten to their core."
But he said even he missed the larger picture when he took a knee.
And demands to "defund the police" or find "justice" for the oppressed, Kaepernick wrote, fail to "remedy the uninterrupted death caused by policing and prisons and frequently leave us disheartened, disjointed, and disillusioned."
And so his current argument is that society should abolish policing and prisons, "not only [so] can we eliminate white supremacist establishments, but we can create space for budgets to be reinvested directly into communities to address mental health needs, homelessness and houselessness, access to education, and job creation as well as community-based methods of accountability,” he wrote.
KTVU reached out to the California Police Officers Association for comment on Kaepernick's thoughts, only to be declined.
Kaepernick, who has not been employed by the NFL since he took his stance, is either considered a hero for his fight for racial injustice or reviled by conservatives including President Trump, who once said that anthem protesters are sons of bitches that should be removed from the field. However, this summer, Trump changed his tune, saying Kapernick should be given another chance if he had the playing ability.
Kapernick's call for the dismantlement of police and prisons is one echoed by the progressive left, which reignited in May after the death of George Floyd earlier this year.
His piece goes even further than the calls to “defund the police," which generally mean shifting money from law enforcement agencies to other efforts. They want social workers rather than police to respond to non-crime emergency calls and more money sent to community programs aimed at preventing crime. They want to take police officers out of schools and military gear away from departments.
While his disappointment with injustices on Black and brown people are evident, Kaepernick did end his piece on a hopeful note.
"Despite the steady cascade of anti-Black violence across this country, I am hopeful we can build a future that imagines justice differently," he wrote. "A future without the terror of policing and prisons. A future that prioritizes harm reduction, redemption, and public well-being in order to create a more just and humane world."