Colin Kaepernick is the biggest story in the NFL right now. His refusal to stand for the national anthem until there is real change in the way people of color are treated in America has made national headlines and it seems that everyone, in every walk of life, has an opinion on his decision. That most of the discussion about this situation is centered on Kaepernick’s refusal to stand, rather than his reasons for doing so, is disappointing, but was also entirely predictable.
Rodney Harrison, a former Chargers and Patriots safety that is now a studio analyst on “Sunday Night Football,” did not focus his comments on the substance of Kaepernick’s comments nor on his decision to do take a seat. Instead, Harrison took issue with Kaepernick’s depiction of himself as a black man.
“I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black,” Harrison said on iHeartRadio (h/t Sporting News). “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single (day) basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.”
Harrison later stated, “I’m not saying he has to be black, but I’m saying, his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a black man, or people of color, that’s what I’m saying.”
Harrison’s assertion that Kaepernick does not understand what black people face on a daily basis directly contradicts Kaepernick’s description of his own life experiences. In a press availability on Sunday, he described an encounter he had during college:
“I mean, I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of a house in college and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called and all of us had guns drawn on us. I mean, came in the house without knocking, guns drawn, on one of my teammates and roommates.
So I have experienced this. People close to me have experienced this. This isn’t something that’s a one-off case here, a one-off case there.
This has become habitual, it’s become a habit. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Kaepernick has been subjected to racist comments throughout his NFL career and especially since his decision to sit during the national anthem became public. Just take a look at his Twitter mentions, the comments section on any Kaepernick/anthem story we have posted here at CBSSports.com (or any other site that allows comments) over the last few days, or the comments section in this story an hour or so after you read it. The hateful language directed toward him is real and much (though not all) of it is racially tinged.
Kaepernick was adopted at birth by white parents, and was born to a white mother and black father. Biracial people are generally afforded the right to decide their own racial identity, but it doesn’t sound like Harrison thinks that should be afforded to Kaepernick. Either way, one thing that it is certain is that Kaepernick himself would know better than Harrison whether or not Kaepernick has faced the same kind of issues that black men and other people of color routinely face in this country.
Source: CBS Sports / Rodney Harrison on Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest: ‘He’s not black’