Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the latest champion athlete to weigh in on Colin Kaepernick and his controversial decision to protest discrimination in the United States by sitting during the national anthem.
While stock car driver Tony Stewart called the San Francisco 49ers quarterback an "idiot," and Super Bowl-winning former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison claimed Kaepernick doesn't speak for black people (before learning that Kaepernick is, in fact, black), the Los Angeles Lakers legend described Kaepernick's actions as "highly patriotic" in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
The NBA's all-time leading scorer compared the quarterback to Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who stopped mid-pole vault at the Olympics when "The Star-Spangled Banner" started blaring in the stadium:
To some, Kendricks embodies traditional all-American Forrest Gump values of patriotism, while Kaepernick represents the entitled brattish behavior of a wealthy athlete ungrateful to a country that has given him so much.
In truth, both men, in their own ways, behaved in a highly patriotic manner that should make all Americans proud.
The discussion of the nuances of patriotism is especially important right now, with Trump and Clinton supporters each righteously claiming ownership of the “most patriotic” label. Patriotism isn’t just getting teary-eyed on the Fourth of July or choked up at war memorials. It’s supporting what the Fourth of July celebrates and what those war memorials commemorate: the U.S. Constitution’s insistence that all people should have the same rights and opportunities and that it is the obligation of the government to make that happen. When the government fails in those obligations, it is the responsibility of patriots to speak up and remind them of their duty.
He noted the selflessness of Kaepernick's cause, recognizing that the stand of the 28-year-old who is fighting for the Niners' starting job could hurt his career.
… Kaepernick’s choice not to stand during the national anthem could create a public backlash that might cost him millions in future endorsements and affect his value as a player on his team, reducing salary earnings or even jeopardizing his job. If team ticket sales seriously dipped as a result, he would pay for his stance.
You can read the Hall of Famer's entire essay here.