Former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a surprise appearance Thursday at the annual “Unthanksgiving Day” event at Alcatraz Island.
The annual gathering, formally known as the Alcatraz Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering, began in 1975 to commemorate the occupation of Alcatraz from 1969 until 1971 by 89 Native Americans.
The demonstrators had demanded at the time that the former prison island be turned into a Native American cultural center and school, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Our fight is the same fight,” Kaepernick told the crowd amid the crowd’s dancing and chanting.
Today, I was on Alcatraz Island at the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering, in solidarity with those celebrating their culture and paying respects to those that participated in the 19 month occupation of Alcatraz in an effort to force 🇺🇸 to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie. pic.twitter.com/KdNtY3dp72
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) November 24, 2017
“We’re all fighting for our justice, for our freedom, and realizing that we’re in this fight together makes it all the more powerful,” Kaepernick said.
“If there’s one thing that I take away from today and seeing the beauty of everybody out here, it’s that we’re only getting stronger every day, we’re only getting larger and larger every day. I see the strength in everybody,” he added.
“The dancing, the rituals – that is our resistance. We continue to fight. We continue to fight for justice. We fight for our freedom, and we continue on that path.”
Prior to a 2016 preseason game, Kaepernick became the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem.
Since then, the protests have taken on a life of their own, with dozens of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem before games.
Kaepernick told reporters in 2016 he wasn’t kneeling to disrespect the flag. Rather, he was kneeling to “stand with the people that are being oppressed.”
“To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand,” Kaepernick said.
Despite Kaepernick’s stated intentions, many perceive kneeling during the national anthem an act of disrespect toward the flag and the country.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the issue, saying NFL owners should “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the anthem.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Kaepernick has been a free agent ever since he opted out of the final season of his contract with the 49ers in March.
He believes his protest of the national anthem, not his skills as a football player, is the driving force keeping him off the field.
Kaepernick filed a grievance in October against NFL owners for collusion. The filing claimed the league and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”
“Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for and to return to the football playing field,” his attorney said in a statement.
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