There are many similarities between legendary Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to be drafted to the U.S. military during the Vietnam War and NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests.
The first major similarity between both men is that they both took a stand against injustices involving race and discrimination in America among Black people. Both were exiled or subsequently blackballed from their respective sports, while facing intense scrutiny and vitriol from the white establishment. But ultimately, both men’s stances against these injustices brought widespread mainstream attention to these issues and both men became revered among their contemporaries for taking their stances against the establishment.
Ali has long been admired for being so outspoken against the prejudiced Jim Crow that plagued the South during the height of the Civil Rights movement.
As Rev. Al Sharpton said of Ali’s impact on the freedom movement, “For the heavyweight champion of the world, who had achieved the highest level of athletic celebrity, to put all of that on the line—the money, the ability to get endorsements—to sacrifice all of that for a cause, gave a whole sense of legitimacy to the movement and the causes with young people that nothing else could have done. Even those who were assassinated, certainly lost their lives, but they didn't voluntarily do that. He knew he was going to jail and did it anyway. That's another level of leadership and sacrifice.”
Ali’s bravery is one of the many reason why he truly is what he’s always said he was: “The Greatest.”
Now Kaepernick is held in a similar regard, in terms of the impact he’s had on the Black Lives Matter movement. As former President Barack Obama said in 2016, “I don't doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he's generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
I also fully agree with ESPN anchor Jemele Hill when, following controversial comments from President Donald Trump about the anthem protests in October 2017, she tweeted, “Just so we're clear: the president's comments will only incite more player protests, not quell them.”
In many ways, I feel Kaepernick has made a more significant impact off the field, than he ever made when he was on the field. And this is a quarterback who led his team to three consecutive NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. So the fact that his biggest impact has come at a time when he hasn’t been playing shows how influential he is, much in the same way Ali once was.