It’s a travesty that Colin Kaepernick turned to an all-white legal team to plead his grievance case against the NFL and the 32 team owners. Over the weekend, the controversial quarterback wore a massive grin and a Malcolm X T-shirt after cutting a deal that will pay him between $50 million and $80 million to end a lawsuit that claimed he was blackballed by the NFL. In a photo after the announcement, he was flanked by his three lawyers, including celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.
Kaepernick became a household name for leading the player protests against police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games. He’s used the controversy to portray himself as a fighter against systemic racism in America. Yet when it came to making his legal argument, Kaepernick didn’t hire an African-American lawyer even though there are plenty on par with, if not better than, Geragos.
The former 49ers quarterback could have retained Willie Gary, a famous attorney from Stuart, Florida, whose nickname is the “giant killer” because of the high-profile verdicts and settlements he’s squeezed from some of the biggest corporations in the nation. In 2000, Gary won a $240 million jury verdict against the Walt Disney Company on behalf of clients who alleged the entertainment giant stole their idea for a sports theme park. A year later, Gary secured a $139.6 million verdict against Anheuser-Busch. And in 2014, he hit the motherlode when a jury forced R.J. Reynolds to pay $23.6 billion in punitive damages to the widow of a smoker who died from lung cancer.
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Or Kaepernick could have hired Benjamin Crump, the Tallahassee lawyer
Fighting systemic racism is not just about protesting police when they violate black people’s rights. It’s about getting banks to stop discriminating against black people who want to start small businesses but can’t get loans. It’s about standing up for African-American employees who get passed over for job promotions even though they are more qualified and have worked for more years at a company than the white colleague who gets the higher-paying position.
Kaepernick could have sent a message to black parents and kids who want to become lawyers. But he showed us that a black attorney is not worthy to fight on his behalf.
Then he had the gall to wear a Malcolm X shirt and pose with three rich white dudes, something the civil rights leader never would have done. Instead of fighting oppression, Kaepernick is cementing its legacy by reminding black people they can’t win without the white man’s help.