Va. lieutenant governor slams NFL treatment of Kaepernick
Speaking at VPA, Fairfax faults way protests handled
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax on Thursday said he has “grave concerns” about the way the NFL has responded to player protests of police brutality, and said former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was unfairly punished for expressing a First Amendment right to protest.
Fairfax discussed Kaepernick and other issues during a presentation to Virginia reporters at the Virginia Press Association Day in the Capital, an annual event at VPA headquarters in Henrico County that includes a preview of the General Assembly session.
“I have grave concerns about the way that he has been treated,” Fairfax said of Kaepernick. “We talk about the First Amendment. We talk about the opportunity to express yourself . ... It’s hard to believe that protesting police brutality and the shooting and killing of unarmed people, primarily unarmed African-Americans, that that’s controversial. I don’t think that’s something that any of us wants to see.”
The Washington Redskins, twice recently needing a new quarterback, did not call on Kaepernick, who two years ago led other players in refusing to stand for the national anthem before games. The lack of a call to Kaepernick prompted some criticism, including from Richard Sherman, a cornerback with the 49ers, Yahoo Sports reported Thursday.
Fairfax said Kaepernick was being punished personally and economically for protesting in a way that has been done through American history.
“It’s pretty clear that he’s not being given an opportunity to play in the NFL. So I don’t believe that that’s right.”
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday that the team talked about bringing in the former 49ers starter, who has alleged that he is being shut out of the NFL because of his stances on police brutality, but concluded that it was too late in the season.
“Had this been Week 1, maybe he would probably be a greater possibility, but since it’s Week 13 with four games to go, in order to really utilize somebody like Colin Kaepernick’s skill set, you’re talking about a whole new group of formations and run concepts and all that good stuff,” Gruden said.
Fairfax, a Democrat, was elected in 2017 to the part-time office, which is considered a steppingstone to a run for governor. He is chair of the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association, and discussed the November campaign in which Democrats increased their number of the nation’s lieutenant governors from 14 to 23.
Fairfax declined to say whether he supported Gov. Ralph Northam’s controversial recent decision to remove two members from the state air pollution board less than a week after they expressed concerns about a plan for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County. He said he had met with people from the area to hear their concerns and shared the concerns with the Northam administration.
“The governor made his decision,” Fairfax said.
And he defended press freedom and said he was upset by the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
“We have got to protect our journalists; we have got to protect our First Amendment,” he said.
Referring to a line repeated by President Donald Trump, Fairfax told reporters: “You are not the enemy of the American people, and I want to be very clear about that. I think you’re actually essential to who we are as Americans.”
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax speaks during VPA Day in the Capital at the Virginia Press Association offices in Henrico County.