During Black History Month, with the series 28 Black Stories in 28 days, USA TODAY Sports examines the issues, challenges and opportunities Black athletes and sports officials face after the nation’s reckoning on race in 2020.
If you watched the Capitol riots unfold, and then watched or read the news coverage of them in the weeks that followed, something may have hit you the way it did me. My mind kept flashing to Colin Kaepernick.
One scene in particular was striking. It was news that one of the rioters attacked a police officer with a flag pole that carried the American flag.
The flag pole moment was in many ways definitive proof that all of the objections to Kaepernick’s protests were never about the actual protests. It was always about not wanting Kaepernick to bring attention to systemic issues in law enforcement.
His critics just never wanted him to talk race. They just wanted him to shut up and play. Everything else about him hating the police and the flag was just performative art.
It’s been over four years since Kaepernick started his protests, and for some, those days may be fuzzy. But to others who followed closely what happened to Kaepernick, we remember exactly how he was portrayed by President Donald Trump and the right wing media ecosystem. Police and the American flag were central aspects to make him seem un-American.
If the arguments against the Kaepernick protests were sincerely about him disrespecting cops or the flag, you would have seen a flood of apologies from the same prominent media voices in the aftermath of the riots. Or at the very least, some type of clarification about why they took such a strong stance against Kaepernick and the juxtaposition of those feelings and statements versus the images from the riots.
I could never find the words to fully state all of this, and how I felt, but someone else did: Dave Chappelle.
In a new video released on Friday he spoke in part about Kaepernick.
“Watch the tapes,” Chappelle said, referring to the riots. “Watch that crowd that told Colin Kaepernick he can’t kneel during a football game try to beat a police officer to death with an American flag.”
Yep, that’s it. Leave it to Chappelle to say it perfectly.
The good news is Chappelle will be there to put it all in perspective. Like he always does.