Brett Favre recently likened Colin Kaepernick’s legacy to a former NFL player turned Army Ranger’s “hero status.”
When asked by TMZ Sports if Kaepernick will be remembered like Muhammad Ali or Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Fame quarterback instead compared Kaepernick’s willingness to give up his NFL career to fight for social justice to Pat Tillman’s sacrifice.
Tillman left the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after 9/11 and was killed in the line of duty. It was originally reported that he was killed by hostile forces, but a later investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command that Tillman was killed by friendly fire.
Favre said that both players will be remembered as heroes:
“It’s not easy for a guy his age — black or white, Hispanic, whatever — to stop something that you’ve always dreamed of doing, and put it on hold — maybe forever — for something that you believe in.
I can only think of — right off the top of my head — Pat Tillman’s another guy who did something similar. And we regard him as a hero, so I’d assume that hero status will be stamped with Kaepernick as well.”
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Pat Tillman’s Legacy Continues to Be Politicized
When Donald Trump began calling out NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem in the 2017 season, Tillman “became a symbol of the supposedly tight bonds between American football and American militarism and American patriotism,” Deadspin’s Patrick Redford wrote.
Trump’s comments at a rally in Alabama calling for the firing of players who didn’t stand for the anthem spurred nearly 200 players to protest that Sunday. Trump retweeted a post with Tillman’s military headshot and the hashtag #StandForOurAnthem the following morning, putting pressure on the Dallas Cowboys and Cardinals to fall in line on Monday Night Football.
Tillman’s widow, Marie, shared a statement with CNN’s Brian Stelter that same night, saying her husband’s service must not be used to silence others. Pat played four seasons for the Cardinals before he enlisted in the Army, a decision he came to with Marie on their honeymoon.
“As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Marie wrote. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that.
Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.”
The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views. It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.”
Pat’s biographer isn’t immune to speaking for Tillman either, saying Pat would support Kaepernick’s cause:
“He was an idealistic, voracious reader who often struggled with the meaning of military service and considered moral conviction a high virtue, Jon Krakauer, the author of “Where Men Win Glory,” a biography of Tillman.
Pat would have found Kaepernick an extremely admirable person for what he believed in,” Krakauer told The Washington Post. “I have no doubt if he was in the NFL today, he would be the first to kneel. So there is irony about what is going on.”
Favre’s comments have refueled debates on social media of whether Tillman would support Kaepernick and if their sacrifices are the same, but Favre’s words should also not be swayed one way or the other.
Kaepernick’s Hiatus Not Enough That ‘He Doesn’t Deserve a Shot’
Favre’s praise was held with the notion that Kaepernick gave up a legitimate future in the NFL by taking a stance against systemic racism.
It’s been three years since Kaepernick played a snap, which Favre said isn’t enough that a team shouldn’t consider him, per TMZ.
“I think from a football sense… I can’t imagine him being that far out of shape or that far out of touch with football that he doesn’t deserve a shot. I thought he was a dynamic player. When he was playing in his prime — and he’s still young and hasn’t been hit in several years — so there’s no reason to think that he’s lost that much of a step.
But when he was in his prime… if I were a defensive coordinator I (would be) as much afraid of his feet than anything. And he could throw well enough he could beat you in that regards too.
I think he’s still a very dangerous player it’s just a matter of where his head is.”
After leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, Kaepernick played four more seasons through 2016 — when he began kneeling during the national anthem — before he opted out of his contract when learning he would be released.
Since then, Kaepernick, 32, has maintained his social activism while continuing to work out in the chance a team signs him or brings him in for a workout. A former NFL executive urged the Minnesota Vikings to sign Kaepernick after the death of George Floyd reignited protests around the country addressing police violence and systemic racism.
Commissioner Roger Goodell recently admitted the NFL mishandled the national anthem protests in 2016 and has encouraged players “to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said “Kaepernick fits what the Chargers want to do offensively,” while adding that “it would be crazy to not have him on your workout list,” but they haven’t yet made contact with the free-agent quarterback,” according to NFL.com.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire