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Wisconsin Republicans erase Colin Kaepernick from resolution recognizing Black History Month

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MADISON — Wisconsin Republicans erased any mention of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick from a resolution recognizing Black History Month on Tuesday, Feb. 12, saying he’s too controversial to be included in a list of influential leaders who are African-American.

February is Black History Month. The Legislature’s black caucus had proposed a resolution honoring a number of leaders, including Kaepernick.

That didn’t go over well with the GOP. Republican leaders drafted their own resolution that didn’t include Kaepernick but did add Mandela Barnes, the state’s first lieutenant governor who is African-American, and Vel Phillips, the state’s first secretary of state who was African-American.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke told reporters during a news conference Tuesday that Kaepernick was left off the list “for obvious reasons.” He later added that Kaepernick was a controversial figure.

Kaepernick, who was born in Wisconsin and used to play for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem before games in 2016 to protest police brutality and racial inequality. President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed players who kneel during the anthem.

Wisconsin Republicans tried to bring their resolution excluding Kaepernick to the floor, but fell short of the two-thirds majority they needed after all the chamber’s Democrats voted against the move.

Republicans said they tried to honor black history and moved on to another bill.

Rep. David Crowley, chairman of the Legislature’s black caucus, walked out of the chamber. He told a reporter in the foyer that people who are African-American should be allowed to choose the leaders they want to honor and Kaepernick is “making history.”

Republicans later added the black caucus’ resolution to the agenda, then amended it to delete Kaepernick’s name on a 61-34 party-line vote. That put Democrats in an awkward position — deciding whether to oppose their own resolution or adopt it without Kaepernick.

After that vote, Crowley said many see Kaepernick as unpatriotic without truly knowing him. He said deleting Kaepernick’s name is a “textbook example of white privilege” and that he shouldn’t need to get permission from white lawmakers to put together a list of leaders who are black.

None of the Assembly Republicans are black and none defended deleting Kaepernick’s name on the floor.

A tweet on Republican Rep. Barbara Dittrich’s account, however, said that Kaepernick wore socks depicting police as pigs and Wisconsin flags are flying at half-staff in honor of a Milwaukee police officer who was killed last week. The tweet was later deleted and Dittrich, when reached at her office, said she didn’t send the tweet and didn’t know who did. Dittrich said her staffer, Keith Best, is only other person with access to her account. Best declined comment.

Former Republican Rep. Tom Weatherston said in July that Best was working for him as an aide when he posted a message on Weatherston’s Twitter account suggesting that state Sen. Lena Taylor was a racist because she opposes Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

Crowley said he still supported the resolution despite Kaepernick’s name missing but has “heartburn” over it.

“It’s sad,” he said. “What you may despise, we may lift up.”

The resolution, which ended up passing 95-0, now goes to the state Senate. Republicans control that chamber as well.

Last year’s Black History Month resolution ran into similar hurdles in the Assembly after Republican Rep. Scott Allen complained the resolution honored only a select group of leaders rather than all who are African-American from Wisconsin. The chamber ultimately passed two resolutions — one written by lawmakers who are black, and one written by Allen.

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