I used to say the verdict of history would vindicate Colin Kaepernick and he would be remembered as a civil-rights icon like Rosa Parks.
I was thinking this would happen 10 or 20 years from now.
I didn’t realize it would take only three years.
It turns out Kaepernick was ahead of his time in kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks.
His critics – including Donald Trump – said he was disrespecting the flag while NFL teams refused to hire him.
When he started kneeling, the majority of Americans thought the killings of blacks by police were isolated incidents. Now the majority doesn’t think that.
What changed is that in the cellphone era, police incidents of violence against blacks were caught on video tape.
And then came the eight minutes and 46 seconds when an officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck.
That video changed America and led to protests all over the nation.
And it changed the NFL.
When commissioner Roger Goodell first issued a bland statement, players were outraged and with the help of an NFL employee put together a video expressing their dissatisfaction.
That led to Goodell’s apology in which he said they should have listened to the players about the protests and that the league encourages peaceful protests.
And even before that, Drew Brees and his wife both apologized publicly for not recognizing kneeling was not disrespecting the flag but a protest against police brutality.
Trump, of course, knocked Brees for apologizing and Goodell for his statement, but Goodell knows he has to stand with the players to be on the right side of history.
Unfortunately, Goodell didn’t mention Kaepernick. That was still a bridge too far for him.
It remains to be seen if Kaepernick will get hired. Goodell’s words will seem shallow if he isn’t.
But if the NFL plays the anthem this fall before games – they might skip it since there will probably be no fans in the stands – players will be kneeling.
And Kaepernick, whether he plays or doesn’t play, will be remembered as a man ahead of his time.