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Some UNR Alumni, Students Push For Kaepernick Statue At Mackay Stadium

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(AP Photo/Todd Kirkland, File)

In this Nov. 16, 2019, file photo, free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick arrives for a workout for NFL football scouts and media in Riverdale, Ga.

Four years ago, former University of Nevada, Reno quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem as a San Francisco 49ers player. 

He said he was protesting the treatment of Black people in America. Other players joined him in the weeks following. But some players and fans were enraged, saying he was disrespecting the flag.

 

A year later, Kaepernick was out of a job. He hasn't worked again in the NFL. Two years later, the NFL banned kneeling during the anthem. 

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And if you took a tour of UNR in those years, you would see virtually nothing to suggest one of their most successful student-athletes had ever set foot there. 

Now, after protests related to the killing of George Floyd, that might change.

A Facebook page, which in a month has collected 1,500 members, wants UNR to recognize Kaepernick, possibly with a statue of him kneeling at Mackay Stadium, where the team plays football. 

Another petition asking for Kaepernick to be better recognized on campus, started by incoming freshman and UNR football player Blake Baughman, is also getting a lot of traction.

Baughman said the petition wasn't his idea, but he got it started when he got full support and input from his team and his friends.

When an article first appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal about the idea, there was a slew of comments. Many were against the plan.

Baughman said he hasn't had any negative comments directed at him. Instead, he has received a lot more support from the community. 

"In the end, I think that the vast majority of people, especially in light of recent events, understand and respect what Colin Kaepernick did and why he did it," he said.

Baughman said the bigger picture of the whole petition is about bringing Kaepernick's message to the university.

"I think, as big as him not being as visible on campus as he once was, people don't talk about what he's doing, people don't talk about him in general," he said.

Chris Murray covered the Wolf Pack and Kaepernick when he was a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

He said there are pictures of the former quarterback in many of the school's athletic buildings, but there aren't a lot of images of the former star in other areas of the campus.

He also said that some of his memorabilia on display at the Reno-Tahoe Airport was removed during the height of the controversy.

"They said it was for cleaning purposes, but it was pretty clear that that was taken out because the airport was getting a lot of calls," he said, "A couple of boosters were not happy with what Kaepernick was doing."

Murray said he wouldn't say the school has turned its back on the former student-athlete. When Kaepernick started kneeling, University President Marc Johnson came out in support of him, but his former coach, Chris Ault, said he agreed with the stance but didn't agree with doing it during the national anthem.

Now, like public opinion around the Black Lives Matter movement, Murray believes there has been a shift.

"But certainly, over the last couple of months, I think that has changed to a more full-throated support just because the topic has become a winning topic if you're on the right side on Colin Kaepernick's cause now, whereas, when he was doing it, it was not a winning side in public opinion," he said. 

Murray met Kaepernick at an event for new athletes at the university when the new quarterback was just starting at the school. He described him as "shy" and not a big talker.

In fact, Murray said if someone had told him back then that it would Kaepernick who would be taking a stand and be outspoken about racial justice, he wouldn't have believed them. 

"He was just a college kid, who was certainly thinking about these things because he was in an all-Black fraternity, but it was not something he ever vocalized," Murray said.

Now, years after he played for the Wolf Pack and first knelt down during the national anthem, Murray believes the drives by Baughman and others will result in a Kaepernick statue on the campus.

"It's going to happen in time," he said, "I think Nevada should jump on it earlier rather than waiting until it's a little more convenient, but there is going to be a statue of Colin Kaepernick on Nevada's campus within the next 15 to 20 years." 

While Murray is sure that the former quarterback will get a statue, he's not sure that he'll actually come back to UNR. He notes that it is likely Coach Ault's comments reached Kaepernick, who could still be holding a grudge. 

Guests

Blake Baughman, incoming freshman, UNR football player; Chris Murray, Reno sports reporter 

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