By: will Burchfield
Colin Kaepernick has stirred many emotions – some of them positive, most of them not – since he began kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest racial injustice in the United States.
Jim Harbaugh, who at first condemned Kaepernick’s actions, has radically changed sides.
“He’s a special person,” Harbaugh told the MMQB, “and a hero, in my opinion.”
In his initial response to Kaepernick’s protest, Harbaugh declared, “I don’t respect the motivation or the action.” He quickly clarified that it was Kaepernick’s “method of action” to which he took exception, not his motivation.
“I wish he had chosen a different way to do this,” Harbaugh recalled, “a different action.”
Then the coach watched as some of his Michigan players supported Kaepernick by raising their fists during the national anthem. And his stance widened further as his perspective did the same.
“It wasn’t a distraction because we were listening to what they were saying,” Harbaugh said. “And they had a valid point. And they continue to have a valid point.”
Harbaugh, who is a staunch advocate of the Legal Services Corporation and the services it provides for those in need, viewed Kaepernick’s protest through the lens of the Michael Brown shooting and the turmoil it provoked in Ferguson, Mo.
“Now that they’ve had a chance to reflect on Ferguson, one of the real culprits were the fines and fees they were putting on low-income Americans, [that] 48 states have been implementing on all of us, all Americans. For Colin, and what Colin’s doing and has been doing, when you really stop and listen and know where Colin is coming from … he’s trying to do this for his future kids, for my kids, for all of our kids. He’s a special person and a hero, in my opinion.”
Kaepernick was joined in his protest by numerous NFL and college players. But he was the first to kneel and thus he is cast as the ringleader.
“He is singled out because he was first,” Harbaugh said. “He is going to be the one that people hold a grudge against.”