San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick came under fire in August when he wore a T-shirt featuring images of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Malcolm X, and he explained his stances Wednesday during a conference call.
Speaking to the media in advance of the 49ers' Week 12 game against the Miami Dolphins, Kaepernick answered questions about the meaning behind wearing the shirt—a decision some viewed as contradictory since Kaepernick has been outspoken about social injustice, while Castro was responsible for human rights violations against the Cuban people.
Kaepernick told reporters he was "not talking about Fidel Castro and his oppression" and added he was instead "talking about Malcolm X and what he’s done for people."
He later elaborated on those thoughts, according to the Palm Beach Post's Hal Habib: "One thing that Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that."
Habib reported that a writer for the Miami Herald countered Kaepernick's claims by saying Castro broke up Cuban families. At that point, Kaepernick responded by drawing a parallel to the United States prison system.
"We do break up families here," he said. "That’s what mass incarceration is. That was the foundation of slavery, so our country has been based on that as well as the genocide of Native Americans."
On Sunday, after the 49ers' 31-24 loss to the Dolphins, Kaepernick was asked about his comments, per ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner:
What I said was I agree with the investment in education. I also agree with the investment in free universal healthcare as well as the involvement in him helping end apartheid in South Africa. I would hope that everybody agrees those things are good things. And trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that he did is just not true.
Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, whose father, Carlos, is from Cuba, spoke on Kaepernick's stance following the game, per the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero:
“Yeah, it matters,” Kiko said of Kaepernick’s stance. “I didn’t read your article, to be honest. But I did see what happened. So, yeah, there were some feelings on my part.”
“You two saw what happened in Cuba first-hand,” Alonso said to his father and me. “I didn’t. But I do have feelings about it. So there was some bad blood there for me with Kaepernick.”
Carlos Alonso also commented, courtesy of Salguero:
“I got interviewed earlier about what I thought of him [Kaepernick], and I said it’s about immaturity,” Carlos said. “He doesn’t know about the suffering the Cuban people have had. He doesn’t have a clue.”
Kiko chimed in …
“He’s ignorant,” he said.
“He still has no clue what a ruthless killer of the Cuban people this guy [Castro] was,” Carlos finished.
Ever since the start of his protest during the national anthem in August, Kaepernick has voiced strong opinions regarding social injustices and the treatment of minorities in the United States.
In addition to speaking up, Kaepernick pledged in September to donate $1 million to communities in need. Recently, Kaepernick announced the first two installments of donations through his website, which has detailed the civic programs that will receive funding.