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Colin Kaepernick’s everlasting message transcends any legal victory

Kaepernick secured a win in his collusion lawsuit against the NFL. But regardless of legal outcome, Kaepernick’s movement has already won.

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Rally In Support Of NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick Outside The League’s HQ In New York Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It has been two years since radical protest entered the NFL’s ranks. Colin Kaepernick became football’s Icarus, burned for gliding too close to the sun, protesting America’s sins like a prophet. A Day of Reckoning emerged and was co-opted before Christmas. More men have taken the mantle within football and haven’t let original protest die behind policy.

Last night, protest found a home in court. Kaepernick’s legal team secured a “major win” where an arbitrator denied a summary judgement from the NFL in his collusion case. The ruling delivers a long-fought victory and reassures his most rebellious backers that he was right. It has long been a belief the quarterback was blackballed. Regardless of the outcome, Kaepernick has already won.

Still to this day, Kaepernick’s protest lives on. It is heavily debated in local newspaper letters, from Minnesota to Charleston. Politicians carry the message on campaign trails and in attack ads. A video game licenser removed the man’s name from song. Black dramas and sitcoms like the mogul Oprah Winfrey’s Queen Sugar or the comedian Issa Rae’s Insecure used Kaepernick’s demurral in new seasons of work.

Truthfully, it does not matter if Kaepernick finds success legally. Athletics take a backseat to becoming one of the vaunted faces of history. Idolatry usually awaits the martyr. Even losing a case does not diminish the effect one’s efforts gave to the world. There is already credence to his claims.

A private corporation wished to diminish the free speech rights of black athletes because keeping the football machine conservative meant bigger payouts for the bosses. Still, Kaepernick’s ghost, the original premise of his message, lingers in NFL locker rooms. The only entity appearing foolish are the men willing to hijack a protest about inequality and evolve it into a fictitious missive for unity. But Kaepernick’s rapture of protest, of upheaval, will be remembered forever.

This is a feeling I hold because of the hours spent on a corner in Midtown. One thousand people gathered in front of NFL headquarters in New York City to show their support for Kaepernick. It wasn’t singularly the passion felt behind the pastors and practicers or a protest-based faith. Rather, it was who was involved. White people of every age emboldened by the wrongdoings came to the streets angry, upset, enraged by the crimes of a football league. They accepted a truth from an embattled black person and then, using their capital, proved his message had a home in a country that rejected him. Truly, if racism must die, it must start with prodding from the majority.

It should never be forgotten that a man needed to nearly lose everything he earned through work and talent to prove himself just and not a perjurer. It reminds one of shades of Ali, who went to jail refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War, a crime he’d later be absolved of after losing some of the prime of his career. It is a nostalgic reprise of Curt Flood, who launched a revolution that changed baseball while being riddled with death threats and losing his job forever.

Regardless of an agreement of politics, it should be reinforced that Kaepernick’s legend is mighty. In a decade of protest, his message is everlasting — the climax of a springtime renewal of athlete activism. A court ruling doesn’t change that, but it does ignite that same flame.