In the West End community of Atlanta, in the heart of the Atlanta University Center, Colin Kaepernick stands. With his signature Afro serving as his crown, he wears an all-Black uniform of the city’s NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons. It’s an image of the most socially conscious pro athlete of this era playing in a city that is unapologetically pro-Black.
The image, which is a mural on the corner of Fair Street and Joseph E. Lowery Blvd, was imagined by artist Fabian Williams. After witnessing Kaepernick being blackballed by NFL owners for taking a stand by kneeling during the national anthem, Williams decided to use his art to provoke discussion.
“I call this mural Kaeplanta,” Williams said. “I’ve been following his protest since last year. And seeing that he was being shut out by the teams in the NFL, I decided to do a piece with him being in an Atlanta Falcons uniform. I believe what he stands for aligns with the city’s history and legacy.”
Atlanta is a city that embraces activism, social justice, and Blackness. It’s a city that served as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement, and home to great Black figures such as Maynard Jackson, John Lewis, and Andrew Young, to name a few.
“A lot of the freedoms that we enjoy today is because of the men and women in Atlanta who sacrificed for us,” Williams said. “Kaepernick is this generation’s version of that. We should make a space for him. Whether he wins a Super Bowl or not is irrelevant to me. I’m concerned with what he can bring with his sacrifice on and off the field.”
With the NFL’s opener only one week away, Kapernick remains unemployed. There are at least 10 starting NFL quarterbacks who don’t compare when it comes to stats. But NFL owners, who are all White save for Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, have blatantly ignored Kaepernick in favor of notoriously subpar quarterbacks.
“Everyone knows what it is,” Williams said. “There is really no need to discuss. It’s about action. Players should be kneeling. I’m not going to watch NFL games until he is in a uniform. We know why he’s not on a team, but what are you going to do about it?”
With Matt Ryan, who won MVP in 2016, as their starting quarterback, it’s highly unlikely that the Falcons would sign Kaepernick. But Williams made a statement about the importance of Black culture, justice, and sports as it relates to Atlanta. It’s a city that can raise a collective fist for “Kaeplanta.”