Colin Kaepernick Receives Powerful Letter of Support From Black Police Union

A billboard of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick atop a Nike store in San Francisco's Union Square. (Eric Risberg / AP)

The blowback was as unhinged as it was utterly predictable. Earlier this week, Nike announced it would be partnering with Colin Kaepernick for a new ad campaign, despite the fact that the former 49ers quarterback has been out of the league since 2016. Within 24 hours, President Trump condemned the move as a “terrible message” to the country and the nation’s angriest young white men were setting fire to their own property in protest.

Police unions, among the president’s more fervid supporters, proved no exception. The National Fraternal Order of Police has deemed the ad an “insult” to law enforcement, while the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) went so far as to call for a boycott of Nike. But one such union has resisted this jingoistic hysteria and thinly veiled racism—the National Black Police Association, which published a powerful letter in support of Kaepernick Thursday.

“The African American community makes a sacrifice each time a life is unjustly lost at the hands of the very people who should protect them,” writes Sonia Y.W. Pruitt, the union’s national chairwoman and a police lieutenant in Maryland. “A sacrifice is made each time the criminal justice system treats people of color as less than. A sacrifice is made each time a letter is sent asking officers to boycott a corporation, without asking those very African American officers who are most affected, what their opinion is.”

As The Washington Post’s Eli Rosenberg reports, the letter also takes aim at NAPO, specifically its “unwillingness to address the topic of race head-on.”

“As black officers we live in two worlds,” the letter continues. “On the one hand we’re police officers, and then on the other hand we’re members of the African American community so we’re well versed in both. Which is why we can understand why Mr. Kaepernick took a knee.”

Kaepernick first demonstrated during the national anthem in 2016, not in protest of Trump’s candidacy but of systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It was a decision he ultimately took after careful consultation with Nate Boyer, a fellow football player and a former Green Beret in the U.S. Army.

“Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country,” Kaepernick told reporters at the time. “There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, [and] that needs to change. … This country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

In an especially ghoulish turn of events, critics on the right have taken to invoking Pat Tillman in their latest attacks on Kaepernick, suggesting the ad is a dishonor to his memory. (Tillman was an NFL player and U.S. soldier whose death in Afghanistan spawned a government coverup and multiple investigations.) His biographer, Jon Krakauer, would beg to differ.

“Pat would have found Kaepernick an extremely admirable person for what he believed in,” he recently told The Washington Post. “I have no doubt if he was in the NFL today, he would be the first to kneel. So there is irony about what is going on.”

Read the National Black Police Association’s letter in its entirety here, watch Nike’s new commercial featuring Kaepernick here, and read Kevin Tillman’s moving tribute to his brother here.

Jacob Sugarman
Managing Editor
Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig. He is a graduate of the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism whose writing has appeared in Salon, AlterNet and Tablet, among other…
Jacob Sugarman

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