Something that matters

On March 24, 1940, University of Nevada left halfback Marion Motley—a first year student at Nevada—killed a 60-year-old Japanese man, Tom Bobori, when he plowed head-on into Bobori’s car near Fairfield, California, and was charged and convicted of negligent homicide. We don’t know whether Motley had been drinking because the Reno community, including journalism and law enforcement, came together to protect Motley so he could continue to play for UN, and all the news coverage was sympathetic. A Nevada State Journal writer described “that poor kid sitting in a cell down in California after that terrible ordeal at which he heard himself adjudged guilty of negligent homicide.” The family of the victim was not given similar news coverage. The penalty was a $1,000 fine, which students, boosters and children in Reno raised for him. Half the fine was given to the victim’s family.

Having thus avoided a term in San Quentin, Motley went on with his football career and—with Kenny Washington, Woody Strode and Bill Willis—broke the modern color line in pro football in the Cleveland Browns. He played for both the Browns and the Steelers and, in 1968, was named to the Football Hall of Fame.

Compare that tender treatment for a player who left a family without a father to the blacklist Colin Kaepernick now faces. In the 1940s, fans just wanted to keep a player playing. In 2017, they and owners have a chance to support principle. The football establishment is proving to be vicious.

Some owners and managers are going out of their way to try to humiliate Kaepernick, as when the Dolphins signed Jay Cutler, who announced his retirement last year. Calling Cutler a player is a reach, since the Bears played him only five games last season, before he left to join Fox Sports.

“Yes, this is the same Jay Cutler who compiled a glittering 68-71 mark as a No. 1 QB for Denver and Chicago over the better part of the past decade, all while continually rubbing people the wrong way with his selfish, petulant personality,” wrote Paul Newberry when news of the screwy signing was announced.

“With Ryan Tannehill facing the prospect of missing the entire season with a left knee injury, the 34-year-old Cutler is getting an undeserved chance to revive his career with a team that made the playoffs last season. Meanwhile, Kaepernick is still unemployed even though he is 4 1/2 years younger, had a better passer rating than roughly half the starting QBs in the league in 2016, and led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl just four seasons ago.”

There was a time when African Americans would complain about police brutality and some whites would roll their eyes. Now, thanks to new technology, everyone has watched incidents of it. Yet no one in federal, state or local authority seems to do much to address it firmly and strictly. Colin Kaepernick decided to throw whatever influence he had into the effort to put a spotlight on our neglect. Perhaps it is too much to expect for major wealthy corporations that steal money from good people to pay for their stadiums to show some backbone on something that matters.