Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame by an NFL fan who lauded his efforts to shed light on the need for racial justice and equality.
Bob Birkett, a Vermont resident, explained to Nancy Armour of USA Today he read through the guidelines for Hall of Fame candidate, which note "any person" may nominate someone for enshrinement, which led him to send a letter in support of Kaepernick in June.
"He's gotten a raw deal for so long," he told Armour. "It's a little bit like (Muhammad Ali refusing to serve in Vietnam). The initial reaction was, 'Holy cow, what a horrible thing.' Then a little while later, it's like, 'Man, that guy had some guts.'"
Birkett said the recent amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others along with the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin are a reminder of why Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016.
"Racists are putting all of this time and energy and effort into putting Black people down," Birkett said. "The time has come and gone to let that go. I hope it can happen. I hope we make progress. I just hope that something good can happen."
His letter, which called for Kaepernick to be inducted as a key contributor to the sport rather than just for his on-field performance, read in part:
"It is my pleasure, privilege, and responsibility as a supporter of racial equality to nominate Mr. Colin Kaepernick. Mr Kaepernick has shown exceptional courage in highlighting the damaging effects of racial injustice on Black people and on our society as a whole. His respectful kneeling posture has created a powerful symbol for those who are oppressed by our society."
The 32-year-old Wisconsin native has been out of the NFL since March 2017 when he opted out of his contract with the Niners. He filed a collusion lawsuit against the league and its owners for denying him work, which was settled out of court in February 2019.
Kaepernick explained his decision to kneel to Steve Wyche of NFL Media in August 2016.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," he said. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
After failing to support the movement four years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a recent interview with Fox Sports' Emmanuel Acho the league will "support" those who protest during the 2020 campaign and pose no threat of punishment.
Kaepernick would be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022.