The Smithsonian just announced that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be given a spot in one of its museums for his ongoing protest of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
When the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016, the inaugural exhibits featured a number of prominent African American political figures, civil rights leaders, and even cultural icons. Now, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will get his own spot in the museum, not necessarily for his prowess on the field (he is currently unemployed and without a team), but because of his ongoing protest against racism in the United States.
Starting in 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee or sitting down during the national anthem while it played before games. When asked why he was staging these protests, Kaepernick said at the time,
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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."
Kaepernick ended the 2016 season with 12 games played, 2,241 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, and four interceptions. He opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and became a free agent for the 2017 season.
Kaepernick has yet to land with a team this year, however, leading many to believe that NFL owners and front offices are concerned with signing someone who refuses to stand for the national anthem. His supporters have called for an NFL boycott until he is signed to a team. Hollywood actor Spike Lee lent his voice to the movement in support of Kaepernick and, most recently, dozens of New York City Police Officers staged a protest in support of the out-of-work quarterback.
The Smithsonian confirmed that Kaepernick "artifacts" will be featured in National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Museum's sports curator, Damion Thomas, explained the decision further.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture has nearly 40,000 items in our collection. The Colin Kaepernick collection is in line with the museum’s larger collecting efforts to document the varied areas of society that have been impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Civil rights advocate Harry Edwards reportedly spearheaded the effort to get Kaepernick added to the museum's exhibits. He considers Colin Kaepernick to be this generation's Muhammad Ali and did not want to risk losing out on memorabilia.
Others are unsure whether Kaepernick -- who never won a Super Bowl -- should really be compared to Muhammad "The Greatest" Ali, an Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion of the world. This is especially true when compared to how other prominent African American icons have still not been added to the museum's exhibits.
For example, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- the country's second and longest-serving black Justice -- still cannot be found in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. When the Smithsonian opened the museum without any mention of Justice Thomas, spokesperson Linda St. Thomas released a statement explaining that "we do not have plans to create an exhibition on Justice Clarence Thomas." The snub against the conservative Supreme Court Justice led many to criticize the museum for politicizing its exhibits.
Well, what do you think? Does Colin Kaepernick deserve space in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture? Let us know in the comments below!