OK, with so much of this and a bunch of that happening regarding the transformation of Colin Kaepernick from San Francisco 49ers quarterback to national lightning rod, it was time to go for the jugular.
It was time to huddle with Jim Brown.
Yes, THAT Jim Brown.
"Well, I think you're calling the wrong guy, my man, because I don't relate to a situation like this," Brown said over the phone Tuesday from his home in Los Angeles.
But I've learned something through the years after several conversations with this NFL icon. Often when he responds along these lines to questions, he is dead serious, and he'll end things in a hurry. You'll also have other moments when he'll become vintage Jim Brown with his tongue after a little prodding, and this was one of those moments.
In case you didn't know, the 81-year-old Brown built his resume for the Socially Active Hall of Fame before, during and after he spent nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns through 1965. He later rushed his way into that other Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and now he's a guru on stuff that's deeper than deep, which is why I wanted his thoughts involving all things Kaepernick. Our discussion spanned from the quarterback's unofficial banishment from the NFL for refusing to stand during the national anthem to Kaepernick's revelation within the last year or so regarding his need to entice others to join him in seeking to correct injustices throughout the country.
You know, like Brown used to do.
"I'd love to generate some respect for this situation, but I mean, are you kidding me?" Brown said with a raised voice that wasn't directed at the questioner or to the quarterback. He is such a Kaepernick fan that he told Syracuse.com of the 29-year-old University of Nevada graduate that he is "a very beautiful human being." Brown's remarks were for anybody wondering if he'll eventually become an active supporter of Kaepernick's many social causes, which is why Brown added with a chuckle, "I've been sitting here waiting for someone to come along to make me conscious? Come on, bruh."
Come on, NFL. That's what everybody should utter these days regarding this Kaepernick thing. Since he parted ways with the 49ers during the offseason after six years, he got only a workout with the Seattle Seahawks. According to head coach Pete Carroll, he chose the forgettable Austin Davis over Kaepernick as his No. 3 quarterback behind Russell Wilson and Trevone Boykin, because "Colin is a starter." Uh-huh. Then there were the Baltimore Ravens, who lost Joe Flacco this summer to injury. Reports said that coaches and management were (ahem) waiting for ownership to make a decision on whether to bring Kaepernick aboard. They'll be waiting forever. At least the Miami Dolphins quit teasing Kaepernick this week by signing Jay Cutler, who was so underwhelming during his time with the Chicago Bears that he retired from the NFL with his 68-71 career record to become a broadcaster. In addition to the Seahawks, Ravens and Dolphins, a bunch of other NFL teams feature "has beens" and "never will bes" on their roster at quarterback. That's opposed to any of them having a healthy 6-foot-4 and 230-pound guy with a huge Afro, a Super Bowl appearance after two trips to the NFC Championship Game and the desire to make a difference in society among his fellow African-Americans.
This blackballing of Kaepernick is blatant. What isn't so clear is how the rest of us should react to it all. We've seen Spike Lee preparing to hold a rally for Kaepernick this month at NFL headquarters in New York. We've seen Civil Rights groups planning protests outside of exhibition games involving all of the NFL teams in California. We've seen social media exploding with posts from people saying they've ended their love affair with the league by refusing to purchase tickets for games and league paraphernalia. We've seen folks spreading the word to spend this NFL watching TV Land or something else instead of Roger Goodell's industry that made nearly $8 billion last season.
I thought I was the only one conflicted when it comes to certain aspects of this Kaepernick thing, but then I called Brown, who said he chatted over the phone with the quarterback last autumn. Even though Brown said it was a pleasant conversation, he sounded like me. We're both against the idea of folks not standing for the national anthem in protest of whatever, but we're both supportive of Kaepernick and others who stick to their convictions regarding injustices of any kind. This isn't to say you'll see Brown joining Spike or anybody else on the battle lines to get Kaepernick back in the league. This also isn't to say Brown has anything against Kaepernick.
This is just Brown being Brown.
"So I'm not sitting here waiting for any youngster to guide my ways of contributing to the betterment of individuals or to the less fortunate," Brown said. "I'm not a part of every person's life, and I don't have an opinion on what they do. Why should I, when it's totally unnecessary? I do my own works, and they speak for themselves. I don't relate to certain things, you know. This is a young man who decided to do what he says he has to do, and he has the right to do it. But I don't sit around waiting for a young man who decides to do something like this with his life, and then that's going to be my contribution to how to help people in my own situation. Why would I need somebody like that -- or anybody else, for that matter -- to show me the way?"
Why, indeed? Brown combined with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and Civil Rights heavyweights of the 1960s for causes greater than trying to get somebody to become at least a third-string quarterback for an NFL team. Those were the days of segregation that had African-Americans battling fire houses, dogs and bombs. Back then, it wasn't so much about banishment from sports leagues. It was more about banishment from freedom for those who needed amendments to the U.S. Constitution and laws passed by Congress to gain equality, at least officially.
That said, Kaepernick's passion for activism touches on themes from earlier generations since his stance regarding the national anthem was to shed light on violence of some police officers against African-American males, along with confrontations that have led to high-profile deaths. He also continues to give large sums of money to anonymous social causes.
Just last month, a journalist friend of mine named Horace Holloman wrote a piece for The Champion newspaper in Decatur, Georgia, about Carolyn Watson receiving $25,000 out of nowhere from somebody with a funny name that she'd never heard of. Yep. It was Kaepernick, and he gave his donation to Watson's charity called Helping Oppressed Mothers Endure (HOME). It uses education and social activism to help women from abusive relationship in search of different living arrangements, and it provides an average of 10 families per month with furniture and other household goods.
"Somehow Colin Kaepernick found out about us, and this [donation came through] no efforts of our own," Watson told the newspaper, adding she didn't even know how to pronounce his name. "This is something that I truly consider a miracle, and the reason why is because this just came to us."
Yeah, but while Kaepernick is an earth angel to some, he is worse than the devil to others. Those among the latter still fume after they combine his stance against the national anthem with the socks he wore last season during a practice for the 49ers featuring pigs in policemen hats. Former Ravens star Ray Lewis wants Kaepernick to leave his social activism out of football, and get this: Not only does Lewis have the ear of Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, but Bisciotti was depicted as "the master" while Lewis was "the slave" in a tweet from Nessa Diab, a national media personality and Kaepernick's girlfriend. Not good, if you're Kaepernick, and if you wish to play for the Ravens, or for anybody else. There also was Michael Vick saying Kaepernick needed a shave and a haircut. Vick backed away from his comments after a mighty backlash, but you know you have an image problem when you're getting lectured by a former NFL quarterback who went to prison for animal abuse.
As for the epidemic of protests on Kaepernick's behalf, well, they aren't misplaced, and they can't hurt. Neither can his diverse list of supporters that include Mark Cuban, Johnny Manziel and Dick Vitale.
See why this Kaepernick thing is confusing?
"Well, my issues are sort of broader than these," Brown said. "Sorry about that, but there really is nothing for me to say."
Actually, Brown said a lot.