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Where was this support for Colin Kaepernick's cause when he needed it?

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick, center, protests during the national anthem in a game in 2016. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In rat-a-tat-tat fashion, high-profile athletes, coaches and administrators have released statements on the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Each has tried to convey the pain, anguish and frustration they feel from the needless deaths of African-Americans at the hands of white people. Many of these statements have argued for the need to end institutionalized racism. They've been powerful, they've been welcomed and they've been much needed. They've also come four years too late.

As some of the most important names in sports have released statements, my mind has asked one question: Where was this support for Colin Kaepernick's cause when he needed it?

Don't get me wrong. It's been fulfilling to see this support eventually come. Sports figures not only have the right, but in my mind the obligation, to take powerful actions on civil right issues. I'm just wondering where this fury was in 2016 when the former Wolf Pack quarterback first took a knee during the national anthem to peacefully protest the issue now gripping America.

Kaepernick was ostracized for his protests against police brutality on unarmed black citizens. He was labeled un-American, a communist, anti-military. He was told to leave the country.

His support, while not non-existent, was muted. And then he was blackballed from the NFL, a league that had the audacity to release a statement Saturday that read, "These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

This is the same NFL that banned on-field kneeling that was rooted in protesting the exact cause the league now says it's embracing the responsibility to fight against. It chose revenue over rights. Nobody will forget that. The hypocrisy is rich, almost as rich as the messaging coming out of the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted Friday: "We believe in law and order in this Country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard."

This is the same Pence who attended a Colts-49ers game in 2017 just so he could make a scene by leaving the game after the playing of the anthem, which cost taxpayers $325,000. Where was his support for peaceful protest then?

"We have peaceful protesters and support the rights for peaceful protesters," President Donald Trump said this weekend.

Rewind the tape to 2017 when Trump said "get that son of a bitch off the field" when NFL players peacefully protested, which he now claims to support. That comment eventually led to one of the few shows of unanimous support for Kaepernick as almost the entire NFL – black and white, players and coaches, general managers and owners – kneeled during week three of the 2017 season. By that time, Kaepernick had already been blackballed.

Where was the support for peaceful protest from the NFL when Kaepernick needed it? Where was the support for peaceful protest from the White House when Kaepernick needed it? Where were the statements from people like Nick Saban and Roger Goodell and Michael Jordan and the hundreds of coaches and athletes who have released statements in recent days when Kaepernick needed it?

If these people would have rallied behind Kaepernick's worthy cause four years ago, perhaps he'd still be in the league. More important, perhaps the needless deaths we've seen in recent days would have been avoided. Perhaps we wouldn't have reached the point of frustration we see today that has led to rioting in cities across the country, including Saturday in Reno.

Calling out systemic racism, which has dogged America since its creation, has now become an easy task because a coalition of support has been created. It's devastating it required Floyd being choked out of his final breath by the knee of a police officer to get to this point. We should have listened to Kaepernick four years ago. We should have heard the words behind his action. We should have supported his cause and his right to protest. All of that support has come too late.

Kaepernick's protest was the one that took courage, bravery and fearlessness because he was doing it without the caucus of support know being shown to his cause. Perhaps it will be enough to earn Kaepernick an invitation back into the NFL after three years of his prime have been wasted. My guess is it will not.

One day, Colin Kaepernick will have a statue on Nevada's campus just San Jose State has for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the black power salute during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympics. Kaepernick will have earned that statue thanks to his courageousness. He put his career, his finances, his reputation and even his life on the line when it wasn't the popular thing to do but was the right thing to do.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Kaepernick was at the beginning of that arc. Hopefully we are nearing its end.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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