Well, that was not the normal, say nothing, conference call with the opposing team that usually happens. Most of the time, the weekly conference call between the team and their upcoming opponents’ media features the head coach and one player - either the star of the team or a player who used to play for the opponents - and it is a lot of “they are a great team” and “you can see what they do right on the film.” In other words, a lot of talking without actually saying anything.
Then, there is the Miami Dolphins’ media’s conference call with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It did not take long for the atmosphere to take a hard turn toward uncomfortable.
Kaepernick, who has made news all season long with his sit-then-kneel protest of oppression during the National Anthem before each NFL game, was asked about wearing a shirt featuring Fidel Castro to a press conference during the preseason. Heading to Miami, with its large Cuban population, praising the Cuban dictator is probably not the direction you would want to go with your answer when pressed about the shirt, but that is where Kaepernick took his reply.
Initially, he tried to downplay Castro, focusing more on Malcolm X, who was also on the shirt, which depicted a meeting between the two. “I wore a Malcolm X shirt. I am a believer in Malcolm X and his ideology and what he talked about and what he believed in as far as fighting oppression.”
After being pressed again, this time being asked if he is a believer in Fidel Castro, Kapernick replied, “If you let me finish, please. The fact that he met with Fidel, to me, speaks to his open-mindedness, to be willing to hear different aspects of people’s views, and to ultimately be able to create his own views as far as the best way to approach different situations, different cultures.”
Asked if he is saying that it is important to have an open mind about Castro and his oppression of the Cuban people, Kaepernick again tried to deflect the issue to Malcolm X being on the shirt. “I’m not talking about Fidel Castro and his oppression,” Kaepernick said. “I’m talking about Malcolm X and what he’s done for people.”
Then, as the reporter tried to point out that Kaepernick was avoiding the “uncomfortable” perceived support of Castro, Kaepernick decided it was time to praise Castro’s work to educate his people, “One thing that Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that.”
When it was pointed out that Castro has broken up families and took over the country without an election, unlike the United States, Kaepernick explained, “We do break up families here. That’s what mass incarceration is. That was the foundation of slavery so our country has been based on that as well as the genocide of native Americans.”
Asked if he is equating people going to jail in the United States with the breaking up of families in Cuba, Kapernick replied, “I’m equating the breaking up of families with the breaking up of families.”