Opportunity beckons for Colin Kaepernick, in both of the quests he holds dear.
Kaepernick was elevated on Tuesday to the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback, a move that will give the 2013 Super Bowl runner-up a chance to resurrect a career that has steadily lost steam.
Yet it is Kaepernick’s much-publicized bid to light a fire under a national discussion about social equality and societal justice that comes even more sharply into focus now.
It is one thing taking a stand, or a knee in this case, as a backup who only sees action once a game is decided beyond doubt, if at all. It is quite another to do so as one of only 32 men handed the steering wheel of an NFL franchise and its fan base’s hopes and dreams each weekend. More eyes, more cameras, more scrutiny, and a direct line to the American public every Sunday.
Coach Chip Kelly’s decision to elevate Kaepernick was made for no reason other than football. It is because Blaine Gabbert, save for a promising start in the season opener, has been inefficient at running the offense and Kelly thinks a change gives the 49ers a better shot at winning.
But make a note of this weekend, for there may come a time when it is looked back on as being far more significant than it seemed on Tuesday when Kelly uttered a couple of predictable and seemingly innocuous sentences.
The movement towards exposing police mistreatment of minorities in America is a real thing that is not going away. Change is coming, in one shape or form. It might be good, bad, bloody, peaceful, who knows, but there is simply too much feeling on both sides for there not to be some kind of action.
And, like it or not, when the history of this fractured period is written, Kaepernick’s name will be a part of it. He took a conversation that was being whispered in corridors, and made it national news, discussed by world leaders and a Supreme Court judge and political commentators everywhere.
Social activism is an inexact science, sometimes sparked by events that seem minor in their moment.
Would Muhammad Ali have emerged as such a vaunted civil rights figurehead had he not been slighted in his hometown after returning from the 1960 Olympics? Would Martin Luther King have held such a pivotal role had he and his father not been ordered to wait behind white customers in a shoe store as an impressionable youngster?
Will we be asking years from now if things would have been different if Gabbert had thrown the ball more accurately and Kaepernick had remained a bench-warmer?
Such a suggestion seems flippant, but these are strange times in which no one knows how things are going to transpire. One thing is for certain though, is that Kaepernick’s message, one that has remained consistent, suddenly got louder – because he has a higher platform to shout it from.