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 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 retain an African-American lawyer even though there are plenty equal to Geragos if not better.
The former 49ers quarterback could have hired 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 Corporation on behalf of a client 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, Gary hit the mother lode 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.
Or Kaepernick could have retained Benjamin Crump, the Tallahassee lawyer and modern-day social justice warrior. Crump has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teen murdered by George Zimmerman; and Martin Lee Anderson, who died in a Florida youth detention center after guards beat him in 2006.
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 a small business but can’t get a loan. 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 coworker who gets the higher-paying position.
Kaepernick could have sent a message to black parents and kids who want to become lawyers. But Kaepernick showed us that a black attorney is not worthy to fight on his behalf.
And then he had the gall to wear a Malcolm X shirt and pose with three rich white dudes, something the civil rights leader would never have done. Instead of fighting oppression, Kaepernick cementing its legacy by reminding black people they can’t win without the white man’s help.