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Harry Edwards: Kaepernick “a man suddenly becoming aware his house is on fire”

LBJ Presidential Library Hosts Summit Marking 50 Years Since Civil Rights Act Of 1964

AUSTIN, TX - APRIL 9: (L - R) Jim Brown and Bill Russell, take questions from Dr. Harry Edwards on the second day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library April 9, 2014 in Austin, Texas. The summit is marking the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act legislation, with U.S. President Barack Obama making the keynote speech on April 10. (Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell-Pool/Getty Images)

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One of the people Colin Kaepernick talked to before (and after) his decision to sit through the national anthem was noted sociologist and activist Dr. Harry Edwards.

Edwards, who has served as a consultant to the 49ers for more than 30 years, said in the San Francisco Chronicle that he wholeheartedly supported Kaepernick’s decision to become a national lightning rod.

“Colin Kaepernick absolutely has a constitutional right to express his opinion on the politics of diversity in America,” Edwards wrote. “He is courageous, well-informed and steadfast in his position. He is evolving through an awakening and (perhaps) really understanding for the first time (given his background) the true depth and scope of the history of anti-black racial hatred and injustice in America.

“And because it appears to have come to him through self-education as a jarring awareness and stark reality, his response seems more akin to that of a man suddenly becoming aware his house is on fire than the result of a deliberately crafted articulation of a considered political position.”

Edwards has served as a mentor to Kaepernick for some time, and Kaepernick said Sunday that he had discussed issues of race with Edwards many times over the years.

But the professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley saved his harshest criticisms for players such as Victor Cruz and Alex Boone, who have taken Kaepernick to task for his method. He specifically asked where they stood on the deaths of Eric Gardner and Philando Castile, black men who were killed by police in areas that just happen to be close to where the Giants and Vikings practice and play, along with a laundry list of other concerns.

“I would be very interested in their records of protest about these circumstances, because they are so dedicated to “honoring our soldiers” that they would heap caustic criticism upon Kaepernick for sitting during the national anthem,” Edwards wrote. “If they have no such record of vehement protest no less critical than what they have waged against Kaep — well, perhaps then it’s time for them to sit down.

“Talk is cheap, especially when it is expediently wrapped in patriotism and the flag.”

Edwards has long been a proponent for the rights and responsibilities of black athletes, going back to his days at San Jose State, when he worked with Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos before their famous protest at the 1968 Olympics. And while the 49ers football operation might be wavering on Kaepernick as a quarterback, he clearly has the full backing of Edwards as an activist.