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Kaepernick will one day be celebrated like Muhammad Ali - Popovich

7 February 2019 18:05

Gregg Popovich believes former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be celebrated like Muhammad Ali due to his work around social activism.

Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season and filed a grievance against the NFL stating franchises colluded to keep him unsigned due to his decision to kneel during the national anthem in a protest against social injustice.

This stance has caused controversy throughout the league, but Kaepernick has the support of Popovich, whose San Antonio Spurs side were playing against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday when they honoured former sprinter Tommie Smith.

Smith and John Carlos made a Black Power raised-fist salute on the podium at the 1968 Olympics to protest racial injustice, while boxer Ali was initially widely criticised for refusing to be drafted in the military due to his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Perceptions have since largely changed on all three athletes and Popovich expects it will be a similar case with Kaepernick.

"[Kaepernick] was very courageous in what he did. He did it for the right reasons," NBA great Popovich said. "The same story [as with Smith, Carlos and Ali] will unwind as time goes on."

Discussing Smith and Carlos before the game, Popovich had explained: "Those are two special people, for all the obvious reasons.

"To speak truth to power, especially in '68, was pretty special. I can still remember watching that. It was quite dramatic at the time. They paid for it in a lot of different ways.

"Now they're basically being lauded for their courage, which is appropriate. Just like Muhammad Ali, everybody hated what he did in the beginning with Vietnam. So they're two very important figures in our social history and the history of justice in this country."

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