With the 49ers visiting the Dolphins this week, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick engaged in a conference call with members of the South Florida media. However, one reporter wanted to discuss something that happened in August, when Kaepernick wore a shirt that appeared to show support for Fidel Castro, which led to a tense exchange.
The shirt depicted scenes from a 1960 meeting between Castro and Malcolm X, and it bore the phrase, “Like minds think alike.” Kaepernick wore it to a news conference after the 49ers’ third preseason game, which was when his refusal to stand during the national anthem became a major national story.
According to the Palm Beach Post, a Miami Herald reporter began pressing Kaepernick about the shirt during the call Wednesday. The quarterback initially chose to emphasize the fact that Malcolm X was also on it, saying that it showed the slain civil rights activist’s willingness to be “open-minded” about aspects of the world.
The reporter, who later identified himself as columnist Armando Salguero, a Cuban exile, asked again about Castro. Kaepernick replied, “I’m not talking about Fidel Castro and his oppression. I’m talking about Malcolm X and what he’s done for people.”
That had the reporter accusing Kaepernick of changing the conversation because it was “uncomfortable” to talk about Castro, who remains a largely reviled figure in Miami’s sizable community of Cuban immigrants. At that point, the quarterback praised a social initiative of the revolutionary-turned-politician.
“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,” Kaepernick said, “which we do not do here, even though we’re fully capable of doing that.”
The reporter pointed out that, unlike what happens in the United States, Castro also broke up families. “We do break up families here,” Kaepernick responded. “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.”
The back-and-forth continued with Kaepernick being asked if he was equating incarceration with the breakup of families. “I’m equating the breaking up of families with the breaking up of families,” the quarterback said.
Kaepernick has been very outspoken this season with his views on American society, even as he has taken over as the 49ers’ starting quarterback and played reasonably well, albeit while his team has plummeted to 1-9. On Wednesday, he fielded another question about reports that his anthem protests, which have been adopted by other players in the NFL — including some Dolphins — as well as athletes in other sports and at other levels of football, are contributing to the NFL’s decline in viewership.
“They’re not watching football because of my stance about fighting systematic oppression and wanting the same equality and freedom for all people,” Kaepernick mused, then added, “I would say they probably need to look in the mirror at what they value. You know, if they’re okay with people being treated unfairly, being abused, being harassed, being terrorized, then the problem is more with what they’re doing in their lives than it is about watching football games.”