Breitbart, the Washington Times and Fox News immediately attacked the tweet, which read: “Spent the morning at the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony on the 50 year anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz. The US government has stolen over 1.5 billion acres of land from Indigenous people. Thank you to my Indigenous family, I’m with you today and always.”
This is what Fox News said about Kap’s tweet: “Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick had an odd way of celebrating Thanksgiving, attending an event that appeared to serve as a rebuke to the holiday and the United States.”
So why would the right-wing press pounce on the tweet? There is a deeper reason, NBA icon and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an article for The Guardian. After all, Kaepernick didn’t really “bash Thanksgiving.”
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“Technically, pointing out a fact isn’t ‘bashing,’” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “America’s forefathers did indeed steal the land from the indigenous people, often over their dead bodies. Just as indigenous people stole land from other tribes. That’s just historical fact. Like pointing out to grandpa that his zipper is open. I’m not bashing him, just stating a truth. So, why the panicky attacks on Kaepernick? Clearly, there’s something much more insidious going on here: the sustained attempt to steal Kaepernick’s political voice by characterizing him as un-American. The Black Grinch who wants to steal White Christmas American values.”
The right-wing is trying, Abdul-Jabbar wrote, to assassinate his character. It’s a technique that goes way back.
“In 1964, after an intense campaign to label him as a communist, an audiotape was sent to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr purportedly of an extra-marital sexual encounter. With the tape was a letter calling him an ‘abnormal moral imbecile’ and encouraging him to commit suicide before ‘your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.’ The tape and letter were sent by the FBI. Calling King a communist was how the FBI justified its relentless campaign of bugging King, his family, and friends and aggressive harassment against him. The campaign was effective because in 1966, 75 percent of Americans did not support King,” Abdul-Jabbar pointed out.
According to Abdul-Jabbar, there has been an “attempt to drown out Kaepernick’s voice by shouting unfounded personal insults has been going on since he first took a knee during the national anthem in 2016.”
There’s nothing new in the way conservative America treats African-American athletes who are vocal, Abdul-Jabbar wrote. The same was done to Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and others.
Kaepernick isn’t letting anyone control his own narrative. Take his recent highly publicized tryout in which the NFL didn’t want to allow the press to attend. Instead, the former NFL player moved the tryouts to a location where the media could attend and he took control of the tryout. As Abdul-Jabbar observed, the initial NFL tryout offer “did not seem designed to seriously consider him for readmittance into the NFL. Instead, it looked like a media-savvy sham-show to make the NFL look like the good guys while destroying Kaepernick’s credibility as an athlete and therefore as a spokesman for anything, be it social justice or Nike.”
It’s all about conservatives who are trying to preemptively silence outspoken athletes, Abdul-Jabbar stressed. Things have gotten worse for socially conscious athletes.
“Efforts to silence the Black community and all others who speak out for rights has only gotten worse under the Trump administration,” he wrote. “Political and social disagreement and discourse, which are the foundations of our country, have been punished. Aggressive efforts have been made to keep African Americans and college students from voting. Lifelong patriots in our government and military were attacked and belittled during impeachment inquiries.”
People have been ordering truth-tellers to shut up and punishing them when they refuse for much longer than 50 years, Abdul-Jabbar wrote.
” I’m sure their tactics have silenced some athletes. Not all. They can never silence all because the kind of grit it takes to become an athlete is the same kind it takes to place truth above self-interest. But they sure will keep on trying as long as they get paid to pander to those who wrap themselves in the pretty colors of the flag rather than the bold words of the Constitution.”