Colin Kaepernick caused a firestorm during the week after engaging in a back-and-forth with a Miami Herald reporter about Fidel Castro, ahead of the quarterback’s trip to play the Dolphins — and just before the former Cuban leader died. Kaepernick played well in a 31-24 loss, especially considering the circumstances, but afterward he was asked again about his comments, in which he had praised Castro for investing more in education than prisons, saying that contrasted with U.S. policies.
“What I said was that I agree with the investment in education,” Kaepernick told reporters Sunday (via CSN Bay Area). “I also agree with the investment in free universal health care, as well as the involvement in him helping end apartheid in South Africa. I would hope that everybody agrees that those things are good things. Trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that he did, it’s just not true.”
Kaepernick had been grilled by the Herald’s Armando Salguero about a T-shirt the quarterback had worn in August, when his protests of racial injustice in the U.S., which involved kneeling during pregame renditions of the national anthem, first gained national attention. The shirt depicted scenes from a 1960 meeting between Castro and Malcolm X, with the phrase, “Like minds think alike.” Salguero, who was born in Cuba and whose parents experienced a trying emigration to the U.S., would not be deterred in repeatedly asking why Kaepernick would show support for Castro, even while the quarterback initially tried to focus his answers on Malcolm X.
Asked Sunday if he understood the concerns about him having worn a shirt that appeared to paint a positive picture of Castro, Kaepernick said, “I can understand the concern. But for me what I said was that was a historic moment for Malcolm.”
He added, “I’m not going to cut out pieces of Malcolm’s life. In 1960 when they met in Harlem, that was a historic moment. That’s something that I will always be true to what Malcolm was, what he represented, because I’m not going to cut out history.”
Kaepernick emphasized that the shirt with Castro was just one of “many” depicting Malcolm X that he has worn — he had another one on while addressing the media Sunday — saying of the slain civil rights activist, “He was a great man and he lived the life that he talked about He was someone that truly walked the walk and was a great leader for the African community, and someone I admire.”
Asked if he was concerned that the issues to which he is trying to bring attention are being lost amid controversies over his Castro shirt and a previous admission that he hadn’t voted in the presidential election, Kaepernick said, “I don’t worry about people losing track of what the message is. I’ve been true to the message. I’m against systematic oppression. Voting is a part of that system, and I’ve talked at length about why I believe that.”
Kaepernick’s exchange with Salguero occurred Wednesday, and Castro died on Friday, meaning that when the 49ers took the field Sunday, emotions were running high among some fans in Miami, which has a very large Cuban-American population. Because of his anthem protests, Kaepernick has already been the target of booing and demonstrations by other teams’ fans, but his reception was particularly negative at the Dolphins’ stadium.
Although San Francisco fell to 1-10 while suffering a franchise-record 10th straight defeat, Kaepernick put on an impressive performance, completing 29 of 46 passes for 296 yards, three touchdowns and one interception while running for 113 more yards. He became just the fifth player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger with 100 rushing yards and three touchdown passes in a game.
However, Kaepernick’s bid to tie the game in the final seconds ended when he came up just short on a run toward the end zone. He was taken down at the 2-yard line on what looked like a painful tackle, and some observers found it appropriate that the Dolphin who administered the final blow was linebacker Kiko Alonso, whose father was born in Cuba.