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Colin Kaepernick taking a courageous stand to prove his mettle

RICHMOND, Va. -- Last week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first pro football player to make the cover of Time magazine for not playing the game.

This Sunday, he'll get another chance, at a serious cost and great risk to him.

Three, four years ago, he was one of my favorite players. Heroic, fearless, a slashing runner with a strong arm who nearly won the Super Bowl for San Francisco.

Then he lost his coach, his mojo and his starting position.

This season, of course, he gained his fame for sitting, then kneeling, for the National Anthem, citing injustice for blacks, and, in particular, their targeting by police.

He became a lightning rod, detested by some, cheered by many, and his protest spread, prompting a national debate about patriotism, respect and discrimination.

Colin Kaepernick (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

I've been on the record saying Kaepernick has every right to stand for sitting and kneeling. More power to him. American an apple pie.

I've also been on the record saying that the police brutality issue is not what he and countless others shout that it is.

So called racism and targeting by police is more of a symptom of the bedrock problems of concentrated, segregated poverty and vastly disproportionate crime rates.

So Kaepernick launching the kneeling, sitting epidemic largely about that left me feeling like, once again, we'll miss a chance to discuss - and finally do something - about the real problems that have haunted our cities for generations, problems well beyond risky encounters with police that everyone is on high alert about.

Kaepernick's other issue is he clearly wants to play. He could sit or kneel for another 50 or so national anthems - three more seasons - making many millions of dollars each year on the bench.

But not playing, not helping the struggling 49ers. He hadn't been playing well and his giant, multi-year contract could have been crippling to the 49ers if he got injured again.

So he gave up his lush four-year contract for a one-year chance to prove himself. He even signed away his injury guarantee - if he plays badly or gets hurt, the 49ers can walk away.

But if he again plays like a champ, all kinds of doors and contracts will open for him.

It's a courageous gamble. He knows all eyes will be on him, many wishing that he fails. And he has to suspect that there might be some opponents anxious to hit him extra hard because of his stance.

My guess is Colin wants to prove that he's a strong man and a player that can run and throw and not just kneel. He has become a role model.

He's willing to give up a big chunk of money, lose his security blanket and risk his neck, his career to be one.

He's putting his money and his life where his mouth is.

Big respect for that, and best wishes for him playing like a champion.

This is an example worth following.