By Gwen Brown
I woke up to the news that Colin Kaepernick was invited to workout here in Atlanta this Saturday. It’s funny…the man has been working out for 3 years and is in better shape than some NFL starters. I think he should have invited the NFL to workout, but Ronald (my husband) told me it doesn’t work that way.
When I was 17, I decided to workout and get in shape so I could play football. This was in 1993 and not exactly a popular decision. Eighteen months later, I became the first female to letter in varsity football in the state of Colorado. I will skip everything that happened in those rich, rewarding, painful 18 months to keep moving toward my point, but it was life-changing, to say the least.
Fast forward 20 years to where I am sitting down for a cup of coffee with Historic Selma, Alabama’s first African American Mayor, who asked me why I played. I told him my standard answer: I loved the game. He was unmoved. He asked again. I thought about it this time and then said, “I do love the game. AND no one was going to tell me I couldn’t play.” He seemed satisfied and then gave me a deep and moving speech—as if prepared—about how God uses experiences to make and mold and prepare us to impact people in the world around us years ahead. He may not have officially prepared that speech, but it came from a place of knowing—with certainty—what he was talking about.
When a friend forwarded me Kaepernick’s tweet this morning, that conversation came back to me. No one stopped Kaepernick from playing football. He has been doing that for decades and I believe he will continue. He was, however, punished for making a peaceful stand for what he believes in— forbidden to play the game at the level he is worthy of—both in athletic ability and good humanship.
As a result, we have been punished by not being able to watch him play the game and use his status and power to make a stand for something that affects humanity greater than yards and passes completed. Kap is a lot like Mohammad Ali, taking risks at the height of his career rather than waiting until it was popular or safe. His acts did not divide our nation, but our divided politics and agendas came out in ugly fashion—twisting and misusing what his simple and respectful message was meant to mean. Thankfully none of us is his judge.
There shouldn’t be any question why this man should play the game he loves, respects and works for. He is an incredible athlete, teammate and humanitarian. As a lifelong Bear fan, I realize the quarterback scene is always a little rough, but have a little dream in my heart that they would make a good decision here and take advantage of an opportunity that shouldn’t—but does—require courage. Whether it’s Chicago or any of the other 31 franchises that takes a step toward doing the right thing (albeit 3 years later), I can tell you the first NFL jersey my baby boy will don will read Kaepernick.