Thus, an impressive two-year series of American political and cultural theater leads to a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion. Colin Kaepernick, a once brilliant young quarterback, chose to give in to his beliefs and endured an apparent blackball from the most powerful sports league in North America.
It would be rude to blame this man for taking an unspecified financial settlement and signing a confidentiality agreement with the National Football League after accusing the league's teams of complicity to keep him out of the way . He sacrificed himself for his beliefs and with a use worthy of freedom of expression, the greatest of American traditions, he came to personify a coming of age political in several sports.
He persevered despite the vitriolic sprays of the president of this nation, Donald J. Trump, who in 2017 used the specter of this black man to arouse resentment.
"Would not you like to see one of those NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say," Get that son of a bitch out of the field now. "Outside he's fired. He's fired! "Said Trump to a crowd in Alabama.
It was a catnip for the extremely white crowd that disgusted Kaepernick.
It is vexing that Kaepernick and his former teammate Eric Reid, who joined him in the protest and the legal action, must remain silent against the corruptions of the industrial complex known as N.F.L. The owners have certainly conspired in favor of Kaepernick blackball, ensuring that he never throws another pass into the league.
While he was trying to join a new team for the season after the start of his rally, and less than five years after driving the 49ers to the Super Bowl, the owners have offered increasingly pathetic apologies for refusing to sign a quarter as quickly. and so strong of arms.
Now he can not say anything about this parody. It's a bit like the Freedom Riders were integrating a lunch counter and agreeing not to talk about it.
I called Ira Glasser, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is also a sports fan tinted in the mass. He resolutely refused to push Kaepernick back for analyzing the ruins of his career and probably taking a large sum of money.
"He was a star who exploded on the scene in an explosive way, and maybe he pulled the maximum justice out of this situation," Glasser said. "But it leaves a mark on N.F.L. this must not be eradicated in the public mind. "
Kaepernick did not burn a flag or even held a fist up in the air. It is a measure of the subtle nature of his protest that fans and sports journalists played three pre-season games before realizing that, oh yes, Kaepernick was sitting in front of the national anthem.
When they interviewed the young quarterback about it, he talked about police brutality and too many dead black Americans: "For me, it's bigger than football and he would be selfish of me to look away. "
In the next game and afterwards, Kaepernick took a knee instead, at the suggestion of a veteran. Yet the whirlwind of anger has gained strength.
In the first weeks of this season, I flew to San Francisco to draw his measurement. Entering the 49ers' post-match dressing room was to find a remarkably composed man with the support of many teammates. He came out of the shower that night and slipped a tight shirt on a tattooed and flexible chest. Then he turned to a set bristling with microphones and cameras and calmly answered all the questions.
A journalist asked him, are you proud of your role in the dynamism of the players around the N.F.L. – Several fists kneeling or raised on Sunday during the various hymns – To protest? Kaepernick, a newcomer to the world of political activism, shook his head. No tunes, man, not tunes.
"No, no," he said. "This movement was not for me. As I have studied these things, as I have seen more and more, it is not right. "
Instead, he explained how social media and reading and consulting photographs online made him understand how many blacks were dying at the hands of the police.
"We see things instantly, day in and day out, and it's difficult," he told us before quoting some of the victims. "For me, I could not see another hashtag Sandra Bland, the hashtag Tamir Rice, the hashtag Walter Scott. "
"When," he went on, "do we take a position?
It was a dissent, yes, and as little threatening and American as one can find in a country so often delivered now to partisan fury. Glitter, the defender of civil liberties, told me Friday: "If this is not acceptable for this country, why do we have to fight?"
Colin Kaepernick, the footballer, could well enter the mists of history. Kaepernick, the human rights defender, the man Amnesty International has appointed a conscientious ambassador, could become his own.
You only hope that this young man left with a mother of the league without shame.