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Talib Kweli Greene, a rapper who has used the racial epithet “coon’’ to attack African Americans he thinks are harming the black community, said he wants to thank Colin Kaepernick for following his Twitter account.
“Following me is a brave choice,’’ said Greene, who has branded conservative politician Ben Carson and Breitbart reporter Jerome Hudson as coons. “Twitter every once in a while will email me and be like, ‘You have to erase that.’
“I say things football players can’t say, you know what I’m saying?’’
Kaepernick, by contrast, is saying very little these days.
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The controversial quarterback hasn’t addressed the news media in public since he parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers after a 2016 season in which Kaepernick stirred emotions by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice. But Twitter offers insight into who he is, with whom he associates with and what he believes.
On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game in protest of several players taking a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declared his players must stand for the song. In both cases, Kaepernick did not comment. But when CBS reported Kaepernick is not planning to kneel during the anthem if he gets another shot to play in the NFL, he responded on Twitter with a Winston Churchhill quote:
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
It was his first tweet since Sept. 6 and characteristically cryptic. President Trump, who has called for NFL owners to fire or suspend players who refuse to stand for the anthem, uses his Twitter account as a bully pulpit. Kaepernick engages in guerilla-like tactics — with his chosen army.
Like Trump, Kaepernick generates heavy interest on the social media site, with more than 4.6 million mentions since Sept. 1, the most of any athlete, according to Twitter. In addition, #ImwithKaep was used in 115,000 tweets from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4.
Overall Kaepernick has 1.4 million followers, but follows only 81 accounts — including Greene, the rapper, and other controversial figures.
For instance, there’s DeRay Mckesson, a civil rights activist who has been accused of inciting violence, and Linda Sarsour, an Palestian-American who has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
Last month, Mckesson joined Kaepernick during a meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and tweeted, “It was good to connect today & to discuss pathways to change. There’s much yet to be done.”
Sarsour attended the pro-Kaepernick rally outside NFL headquarters Aug. 23 and is a member of The Gathering Justice, among the organizations to which Kaepernick has donated this year while giving away almost $1 million.
“Every conversation that I’ve ever had with Colin is based on what are we doing right now,’’ Sarsour, who like Kaepernick made Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for 2017, told USA TODAY Sports. “Where is the work? What are you focusing on? Where is the need?
“I wish more people would understand who he is on a deep level.’’
Kaepernick offered a glimpse when on July 4 he released a video documenting his trip to Africa.
“In a quest to find my personal independence, I had to find out where my ancestors came from,’’ Kaepernick said during the narration. “I set out tracing my African ancestral roots, and it lead me to Ghana.’’
But his Twitter account suggests he is about more than politics. For example, he follows Camp Taylor, a camp in northern California for children with heart disease.
Kaepernick’s adoptive parents lost two children to heart disease and, as a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, Kaepernick donated his first game check to Camp Taylor. He sponsored the organization’s charity golf tournament last year, said Kavin Desai, a pediatric cardiologist and medical director of Camp Taylor who said he has not spoken to Kaepernick since the protests began in August 2016.
“I’ve always been taken by how thoughtful he is,’’ Desai said. “He’s clearly a very caring person. He’s got a huge heart. He’s very deliberate. He’s smart. He knows what he’s doing.
“I’m excited for what he’s doing and the direction he’s going because it’s what he wants to do. We’re a little bit saddened that he’s a less involved with us at Camp Taylor now, but that’s part of maturing and I’m understanding of that.’’
Kaepernick also follows Jeremiah Jones, who said he contacted Kaepernick after reading about the quarterback’s involvement with Camp Taylor. “He was doing something positive, not being selfish,’’ Jones explained about his decision to reach out to the quarterback.
That was almost four years ago when Jones, then 13, sent Kaepernick gear from his clothing line, JYoungin, a non-profit that promotes academics, sports and leadership. Kaepernick wore a red JYoungin vest on Jan. 12, 2014, after the 49ers beat the Carolina Panthers 23-10 in a playoff game, and JYoungin sales spiked.
“They shot up like a rocket,’’ said Jones, who added that Kaepernick also sent a boxful of his own merchandise to Jones.
Jones said he feels a special kinship with Kaepernick because Jones, like the Kaepernick, is biracial. He keeps up with Kaepernick on Twitter, and Jones remains on the select list of Twitter accounts Kaepernick follows.
“I’ve been rocking with Kaep since he’s been rocking with me,’’ Jones told USA TODAY Sports, “and I’m still rocking with Kaep.’’
More than a dozen of the Twitter accounts Kaepernick follows belong to athletes, including Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills who earlier this year tweeted, “Thinking NFL players are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.’’
Another account belongs to his girlfriend, Nessa Diab, whose Muslim faith and pointed tweets haave drawn scrutiny from Kaepernick’s critics. On Sunday she tweeted, “The reports that Colin will stand for the anthem are completely false! He has never discussed this with anyone.’’
Once again, Twitter offered the only clues.
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