Basketball Hall of Fame member Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the latest contributor to a steadily increasing list of athletes and reporters who compare NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Since Kaepernick started his protests against the national anthem in August 2016, the sports world has been praising his efforts and sharing their political views. One particular comparison is becoming more common: Kaepernick to Ali.
Abdul-Jabbar said that Kaepernick is being ostracized for his beliefs, and sees a direct link between the public’s interpretation of the two athletes.
“We should admire those who risk personal gain in the service of promoting the values of their country,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennet added that Kaepernick’s impact has reached communities like no other great player has that he has witnessed. He said that it is to the point where people go up to Kaepernick in the streets and say “Man, you’re like Muhammad Ali.”
Fox Sports 1 “Undisputed” co-host Shannon Sharpe said he believes that history will look at Kaepernick differently and show appreciation for his efforts against racial injustices, much like Ali. He added, “See, people have a hard time looking at Colin Kaepernick as a Dr. King, as a Muhammed Ali, or as a Ms. Rosa Parks because they’re looking at these iconic figures 50 years after the fact.”
UCLA Berkeley Professor Harry Edwards even told the Smithsonian, “Don’t wait 50 years to try to get some memorabilia and so forth on Kaepernick. Let me give you a game jersey, some shoes, a picture … And it should be put right there alongside Muhammad Ali. He’s this generation’s Ali.”
“Ali created a conversation,” Edwards added. “The same thing with Kaepernick. He sparked a national conversation about race.”
Kaepernick announced in March that he plans on standing for the national anthem next season. He is currently without a team.
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