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Senate Republicans Vote To Keep Colin Kaepernick’s Name Off Black History Month Resolution

Move Followed Protests Of Senate's Only African-American Lawmakers

Wisconsin capitol
Allen DeWitt (CC-BY)

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday to remove former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick from a resolution recognizing Black History Month.

The move came over the protests of the chamber’s only two African-American lawmakers, including Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who said the decision to exclude Kaepernick was emblematic of white privilege.

“The Wisconsin white Republicans are going to decide which forms of protest are acceptable,” Taylor said during one of several lengthy floor speeches.

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Kaepernick, who is originally from Milwaukee, was one name among many on a resolution honoring “people of African descent or African-Americans (who) have made measurable differences in their respective industries.”

Others on the final resolution include Lucien H. Palmer, the first African-American to be elected to the Wisconsin Assembly; Violette Neatley Anderson, the first African-American woman to practice law before the United States Supreme Court; and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who rose to national fame in the last couple of years for his decision to sit, and later to take a knee during the national anthem. He has said he took the action to protest police brutality in African-American communities.

Kaepernick’s actions drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who pressured NFL owners to require players to stand during the anthem. Kaepernick, who is no longer playing in the NFL, has filed a lawsuit against the league, arguing owners colluded to keep him off the field.

Taylor challenged GOP lawmakers Wednesday in the Senate to explain their decision to exclude Kaepernick from the Black History Month resolution, but each senator declined.

“You object to a Negro having the audacity to speak up?” she asked. “What is it? I’d love to hear it from your mouth.”

Taylor said Kaepernick was drawing attention to an issue that was very real to her constituents.

“Doing what is right takes courage,” Taylor said. “Colin Kaepernick showed courage. Although he stood for inequality and injustice everywhere in this nation and police brutality that is real in this nation, he’s from a place that is the worst in the nation to be a black American.”

Taylor is one of only two African-Americans in the 33-member Wisconsin state Senate. The other, Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, called the decision to omit Kaepernick “insulting,” and “degrading.”

“Diversity is needed in this building on the other side,” Johnson said to Republicans.

While no Republicans spoke during Wednesday’s debate, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Tuesday it was unfortunate the Legislative Black Caucus chose to include Kaepernick in their resolution, calling him a divisive figure.

“We’re in a new era, we’re trying to figure out ways to work together,” Vos said Tuesday. “We would hope they would have more consideration to say, let’s look at finding ways to work together, rather than always looking at ways to drive us apart.”

While the resolution passed the Senate with only Republican votes, the same resolution passed the Assembly on a 95-0 vote, although at least a couple Democratic representatives who voted for it initially said they’d changed their minds.

Rep. LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee, was among the first to announce Tuesday she had asked the Assembly Chief Clerk to formally change her vote.

“The insistence that Colin Kaepernick’s name be removed from the Black History Month resolution was an exercise in white privilege and one that I cannot accept,” Myers said in a statement. “To agree to the watered down version of this resolution would mean supporting the suppression of the African-American’s fundamental right to protest injustice. That is something I cannot and will not do.”