We haven’t given Colin Kaepernick his full due for living his convictions

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Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (right) did not play in 2017.

When was the last time you took a stand for something that cost you dearly? When was the last time you had an opinion that put your job in jeopardy or your well-being in danger?

I can’t remember ever doing that.

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What Colin Kaepernick is doing is heroic, and, yes, I am sensitive to the rampant misuse of that word in our world. I also understand that one person’s hero is another person’s villain.

But when the easiest thing in the world would be to cave in to outside pressure, the out-of-work quarterback continues to live his convictions. Even if you think his national anthem protests are objectionable, surely you can see a sliver of valor in his perseverance. If you can’t, it’s because you’ve closed your eyes and your mind.

Kaepernick recently had a workout scheduled with the Seahawks. This was big news because few teams had shown interest in the football pariah and because he has a collusion grievance against the NFL. A few days before the workout, the Seahawks called and asked for assurances that he wouldn’t kneel during the anthem if they signed him. He declined to give them any. The workout was canceled, and the team has since signed two other quarterbacks as potential backups to Russell Wilson.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that “the opportunity is still open’’ for Kaepernick. We’ll see.

No matter what you think of the former 49er, you can’t say he’s weak-willed. He’s a man of conscience. We haven’t given him his full due for that.

His critics argue that he didn’t become politically aware until he became a backup quarterback. They say he already has made a ton of money and isn’t risking much financially. The latter part certainly is true. He made $42.7 million with the 49ers before opting out of his contract in March 2017.

But does his life sound like something you’d want? Would you enjoy being deprived of the thing you do best in life? Do you think you and your money would get out of the house much? Are you a fan of death threats? How would it feel to watch teams bring in quarterbacks who can’t match your skills?

You’re right: That’s what he signed up for when he started kneeling in protest of racial injustice. But that’s the most heroic part of it all. He knew there would be a backlash, and he continued to do it anyway. No team dared sign him last year.

He has not taken advantage of his celebrity/notoriety. He could make money traveling the country and giving speeches. He could raise his profile by going on TV shows. Instead, he has let a simple gesture speak for him as he waits for a team to give him a chance.

He’s protesting injustice. You might not agree with his method of protest, but it’s difficult to argue that what he’s fighting against isn’t an issue in this country. The arrest of two black men who wanted to use a Starbucks restroom while waiting for a friend is the most recent instance.

We can argue about this until we’re all red, white and blue in the face, but the anthem is not a salute to the military. It celebrates our democracy, and one of the most patriotic things an American can do is speak freely. Soldiers didn’t die so that everyone could stand during the anthem.

If NFL teams believe fans will stop coming to games or advertisers will pull their ads with Kaepernick on the field, it’s their right to ignore him. But those teams don’t have a right to keep him out in a coordinated way, which is the basis of his collusion grievance.

It’s impossible to say if a franchise would be hurt financially by signing him. It would be fascinating to find out. Team owners aren’t exactly societal risk takers, so it would be a brave thing indeed for one to step forward and allow a kneeling Kaepernick on his roster.

There’s no way the conservative Bears would ever sign Kaepernick. But could he have been worse for business than Mike Glennon was last year? Guaranteed money of $18.5 million for one victory, three losses and a benching? I don’t think so.

At great personal cost and risk of physical harm, Kaepernick has taken a stand. How many people do you know who have done that? That’s what I thought.

Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.


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