A resolution in support of building a statue of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick passed in an Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate meeting in December 2020. Now, it awaits the decision of university President Brian Sandoval.
The purpose of the statue is to honor the former quarterback who brought excitement and success to the Wolf Pack during his collegiate career from 2006 to 2011. After entering the NFL draft in 2011 and playing several seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality in the United States in 2016.
The move sparked controversy, drawing criticism from people who said the action was unpatriotic and disrespectful to current and former members of the military. Kaepernick’s decision to kneel was influenced by a veteran.
This led to Kaepernick’s departure from the NFL. Since then, he has become an activist for racial equality with a focus on police and prison reform.
If Sandoval approves the proposal, the next step would be to reach out to Kaepernick himself for permission.
The idea to recognize the quarterback came after recent graduate Wenei Philimon interviewed Black students and several voiced concerns about Kaepernick’s image being removed from campus in the wake of his protest.
“The university and ASUN put out statements supporting Black Lives Matters therefore putting the statue would be the “action” part of their letter of statements,” she said. “This statue would make Black students feel like they are supported and are listened to. Additionally, it would showcase that their voices are being heard and not ignored like in the past. In the past we have seen hate speech on this campus targeted towards Black students and yet nothing has been done concerning it.”
When an opportunity to interview Sandoval’s predecessor Marc Johnson arose, Philimon initiated the conversation.
“I asked him if he would be willing to put a Kaepernick statue on campus based on students’ requests and he said he would consider it if a proposal was made,” she said.
In the spring of 2020, Philimon reached out to College of Liberal Arts Senator Lauren Harvey for help with creating a proposal.
“I wanted to work with Lauren because I was beyond amazed by the work she has done in ASUN with issues that concern diversity,” Philimon said.
Harvey says the biggest step in the process will be submitting the proposal to Sandoval as the future of the project relies on his go-ahead. The two women have worked for months to research and draft the final product, and hope to finalize it during the spring semester.
“What I think is important to note is that our work here is just beginning,” Harvey said. “The past few months that were dedicated to writing the proposal and speaking with campus organizations is simply the beginning of a larger agenda to create statue committees, begin fundraising, and solicit an artist; all tasks that we are eager and ready to begin once we receive approval from Brian Sandoval and Colin Kaepernick.
Both women agree that recent events and the escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement is proof that there is a need for a Kaepernick statue.
“In the same way that we’ve had hard discussions with students and faculty about this project, this statue will serve to engage the campus population in greater dialogue about what it means to be patriotic, what anti-racism means, and to start having uncomfortable conversations about privilege and how we can work to become better peers to our diverse community,” Harvey said.
For Philimon, the process to move forward with building the statue shows there is more work to be done. She says that people who would normally support these efforts oppose Kaepernick because he is too controversial.
“Cherry-picking when to engage in activism and when not to has been the most prevalent barrier to this project because so many individuals do not realize that activism and allyship must be a constant effort and not just something to post about on social media when it’s convenient.”
Madeleine Chinery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mchinery6