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Jim Brown, the former Cleveland Browns running back who possibly is the greatest football player in history, recently talked about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying he has to decide if he wants to be a football player or an activist.

That’s an interesting statement from the player who may have been the biggest proponent of activism when he and others, including Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Wooten, began the Athletes Black Economic Union in Cleveland in the mid-1960s. Kaepernick hasn’t played since he suited up for his seventh season with San Francisco in 2016. In his last year, he played in 12 games, throwing 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions, statistics good enough to give him a chance to, if nothing else, be a backup in the NFL.

Unfortunately, when he took a knee during the National Anthem, some people including several owners, believed this was an affront to the flag of the United States and our military. Kaepernick has denied this.

As with numerous situations, sometimes it depends on who gets to define the moment as to whether something is right or wrong. In the past week, New Orleans QB Drew Brees, citing family military members, had to walk his statement back, undoubtedly keeping teammates and others in the NFL causing a greater divide than there already is. By the way, in the past several weeks, Brees and his wife, Brittany, donated more than $5 million to food banks in Louisiana to provide tens of thousands of meals to many affected by the coronavirus.

Also changing midfield direction was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who came full circle in defense of Kaepernick (without mentioning him by name). Kaepernick and his supporters have said taking a knee during the national anthem was always nothing but a call to point out police brutality in black communities. Maybe the flag might have been a bad symbol for him to use, but even though it took five years to get the support he sought, he got their attention. Whether he gets any teams interested in him at this point is something I can’t answer.

It's a tall world after all

Now that the NBA has decided on playing out the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla., with 22 teams eligible to win a made-up end of the regular season with a playoff, the Cleveland Cavaliers are among the eight teams who are done for the year. The Cavs could have won more games if they wanted to qualify, and certainly they were a better team when the season was taken away from them, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.

The way it stands now is the Cavs won’t be able to practice or be coached until November, a period of more than nine months before they can attempt to become a real team. You would think the eight teams that had their season ended could be allowed to play meaningless games against each other.

You may be wondering why the NBA has a strange number of 22 teams, which are unbalanced east and west. It’s Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that didn’t make the eight team list that would directly go into the playoffs. While there are some legitimate stars and teams that could provide television ratings – after LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and the usual players at the top – there is Williamson, last year’s first pick in the draft.

In case you forgot why games will be played without fans in the stands, turn on your television when these games begin. You won’t be alone.

Read Les Levine online at Follow Les at JewishNews.


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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