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Is Colin Kaepernick's message being forgotten amid Trump/NFL dustup?

September 27, 2017

David Wiggins

David Wiggins said he hopes protests by NFL players and owners against President Donald Trump’s statements condemning players who kneel during the national anthem and saying they should be fired, have “pricked people’s consciousness.”

He also hopes it spurs people to speak out on all issues of inequality.

The George Mason University sports history professor is an expert on the participation of African Americans in sports.

“I don’t want this obvious protest against what Donald Trump has said to allow us to forget what Colin Kaepernick had on his mind at the very beginning” in 2016, Wiggins said of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. “Kaepernick took a knee and did his silent gesture because he was trying to bring attention to police brutality against African Americans. I hope we don’t make it black and white athletes against Donald Trump. I hope we can remember why he did it in the first place.”

That is especially appropriate, Wiggins said, because Kaepernick seems to be suffering the fallout of his actions, as no NFL team has offered him a contract, or even a tryout, for this season.

“What he did was extraordinarily brave,” Wiggins said. “He realized he may be threatening his whole athletic career, and that may be exactly what has taken place.”

The curiosity, Wiggins said, is that so few NFL players publicly joined Kaepernick’s protest at the time.

“There’s a tendency to already have forgotten about him,” he said. “I’m sure he’s probably saying to himself, ‘Where were all these people months ago?’ He really went out on a limb and, in my opinion, he’s suffering from it.”

Even NFL owners showed support for their players before this week’s games, including standing and kneeling with them during the national anthem, which makes Kaepernick’s situation more frustrating to Wiggins.

“They’re stepping up, so why hasn’t [Kaepernick] hooked up with another team?” said Wiggins, the author of several books, including “The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport.”

“My understanding is he’s a great teammate and works hard. He’s donated money to various charities. He’s somebody to admire, at least in the way I view the world,” Wiggins added. “He’s trying to think beyond the athletic field and is trying to make a difference. What’s more American than that?”

David Wiggins is a professor of sports history in George Mason’s School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism and is co-director of the Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society in the College of Education and Human Development. He can be reached at 703-993-2057 or dwiggin1@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.