Arian Foster knows all too well that racial profiling and police misconduct toward African Americans are real problems. He has experienced them.
Foster, the Dolphins running back, was barely a teenager when California cops pulled over his dad driving north on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Los Angeles.
“They told us to get out of the car, all of our clothes got pulled out of the bag and then said, ‘Y’all have a good day,’ ” Foster said. “Never told us why we were pulled over. I know my rights, but there are certain things you’re taught to do as a young man that won’t get you killed. Those are the confrontations that we have with police officers on a regular basis in our communities. And that’s what Colin Kaepernick is trying to portray.”
Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has refused to stand for the singing of the national anthem this preseason, an emotionally charged protest that has made him the target of national ridicule — and some praise — in recent days.
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Kaepernick explained his reasoning to NFL.com: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick’s pointed criticism of law enforcement has, of course, triggered a backlash. But not from Foster, who agreed with Kaepernick’s stand on the merits, if not his tactics.
Foster, who often spoke out on issues important to him while with the Houston Texans, including domestic violence and alcohol abuse, said he would not refuse to stand during the playing of the national anthem, but understands why Kaepernick did so.
“I don’t necessarily see that as a solution to anything,” Foster said. “This is me talking. This is Arian talking. If that’s what he felt, that’s his form of protest, I support his right to protest. Those are his thoughts, his opinions.”
Foster continued: “I understand 100 percent what he’s doing. He’s frustrated, just like me. He’s just like my brother. He’s just like my cousins out there. He’s frustrated. It’s hard seeing people get murdered and killed without repercussions.”
Foster’s No. 1 issue with the rash of police shootings is a lack of value granted to the lives lost. Cops who fire their service weapons are rarely prosecuted. And news outlets are quick to publish a mug shot and criminal record if the victim has one.
That angers Foster. And he won’t keep quiet about it. He spent much of Sunday engaging with dissenters on Twitter, including ex-Texans teammate T.J. Yates, who was critical of Kaepernick’s decision.
“I speak my mind,” Foster said. “I’m active in the communities. I try to educate young brothers that are in gangs and victims of what people don’t understand — this is a systemic problem that’s been going on for generations.
“If you think about it, Marvin Gaye had a great song, “Inner City Blues,” where he said ‘trigger-happy policing.’ That same sentiment is being said 40 years later. Is everybody crazy, or is something actually going on? I think that’s the dialogue that Colin Kaepernick is trying to get started. Would I not stand up for the pledge [of allegiance]? Me? No. I don’t see the correlation, in my opinion. But I understand what he’s doing. The backlash that he’s getting, that’s what I don’t understand. Sports have been used for protest for years.”
So what if a Dolphins player decided to use sports to protest?
Coach Adam Gase would generally be OK with it.
“Every guy’s got their position on certain things,” Gase said. “They’re able to express it in certain ways. There’s nothing that says they can’t do that. Our guys in our locker room, if they have certain stances they stand behind, then it’s not my right to say you can’t do that.”
Foster is one of those guys. “Racism is still alive” in the United States, he believes. And social media regularly makes his point. He’s received many tweets from people saying that if he doesn’t like this country, he can leave.
To that, he responded: “What do you mean? Where can I go? ... African Americans are the only people in America who don’t have a heritage, because of slavery. We’re descendants of genocide, and people don’t like to talk about that. It’s the truth. We’re the descendants of genocide. So when you say, ‘You can leave,’ where to? I don’t know where my people come from. Am I from the Congo? Am I from Kenya? Am I from the Ivory Coast?
“I have no idea where my lineage comes from, and that is a huge issue as to why there’s a self-identity crisis in our neighborhoods. We’re taught to hate ourselves for generations. And people are just quick to say, ‘Get over it. Get over it. Slavery happened a long time ago.’ I grew up in a domestically violent household. There are effects that I grew up with and had to deal with emotional issues growing up with domestic violence in my house. That’s one generation removed. Now here’s 300 years of slavery, you’ve seen your people get people, have them told you aren’t anything. Written in laws that they’re three-fifths a human being for 300 years. You’re telling me there’s no psychological effects that won’t trickle down in your bloodline? Of course there are. Until this country addresses is, this will happen.”