Cuban-Americans are fuming over San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to don a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Fidel Castro, the longest-ruling dictator in the Western hemisphere, while making a high-profile protest against what he says is mistreatment of African-Americans in the United States.
Kaepernick has dominated headlines recently in the Nation Football League’s preseason because of his refusal to stand during the "Star-Spangled Banner." Kaepernick says he's protesting what he describes as the oppression of blacks in the United States.
At a recent press conference after a game, Kaepernick’s wore a shirt showing photos of Castro in a meeting the former Cuban leader had with the late civil rights activist Malcolm X in 1960.
ESPN radio and TV host Dan Le Batard, who is Cuban-American, tweeted: “You can agree with Kaepernick's stance/reason AND think he's a dope for wearing a Fidel Castro Tshirt.”
In Miami, Jose “Pepe” Hernandez, co-founder of the anti-Castro lobby group Cuban American National Foundation, said to Fox News Latino: “His actions were, at best, tremendously ignorant and irresponsible.”
“As a major sports figure, for him to select the image of Fidel Castro to represent his opposition to what is happening as far as human rights in the United States against a specific group of Americans is thoughtless and an insult to all those who directly and indirectly have suffered the human rights abuses of the Castro dictatorship,” said Hernandez, a Bay of Pigs veteran.
He said it was ridiculous that the NFL player linked his causes for civil rights to a person who has oppressed his people for more than 50 years. Castro, Hernandez said, has caused “numerous deaths, disappearances, imprisonment of people and separation of families” so there is no understanding Kaepernick’s thought process.”
Some have defended Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner,” saying other African American sports figures also have chosen, throughout history, to take a stand to protest civil rights problems in the United States.
Miguel Perez, a national syndicated columnist who focuses on Latinos, and who was born in Cuba, said he supported Kaepernick’s right to sit during the national anthem.
“It’s his First Amendment right,” Perez said. “I respect people’s right to protest. At the same time, when you identify yourself with a monster like Fidel Castro, you lose all credibility, and you show you’re basically an ignoramus.”
“Does he know what Fidel Castro has been like to the Cuban people?” Perez asked. “Does he think the Cuban people – of all races – have the right to protest like he does? Because obviously if anyone there, including a Cuban athlete, ever protested, they would disappear. A Cuban athlete would never get away with representing Cuba at a sporting event and refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Cuba’s treatment of its people.”