UPDATED With Video NFL team owners “have colluded” to keep free agent Colin Kaepernick from playing professional football, said the Rev. Jesse Jackson on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher tonight. Placing Kaepernick in a “lineage” of such black athletes as Jackie Robinson, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Curt Flood and Muhammad Ali, Jackson said “We should honor Kaepernick.”

Taking a brief respite (more or less) from all things Trump, Maher and Jackson spoke about Kaepernick just a few hours after the president pardoned racial profiler Joe Arpaio.

The former San Francisco 49er “should have the right to play and express himself at the same time,” Jackson said of Kaepernick, who took a knee last year during the playing of the National Anthem in protest of police violence against people of color.

Colin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Ben Margot

“He’s not burning the flag,” Jackson said. “He’s not hustling drugs to teenagers, he’s not shooting people with guns. Jackie Robinson once said that he would not salute the flag nor sing the National Anthem because he felt it was not protecting him. Tommie Smith and and John Carlos at the (1968) Olympics showing their fists. Ali said ‘I will not go to the war.’

“There’s a lineage of athletes who have taken a stand,” Jackson continued, noting that “the reason athletes have all this super money today is because Curt Flood said he would not be sold. All the free agents come from a guy who stood up. So maybe Kaepernick is that one guy who stands up.”

When Maher – who predicted that Kaepernick would be picked up by a team soon because “it’s becoming too big” – said that Kaepernick’s unemployment “seems so mean-spirited,” Jackson said, “The owners have colluded, they have decided not to have him play.”

Jackson didn’t go easy on the NFL Players Association either. “The silence of the Players Association is a kind of betrayal,” he said. “They are too silent in light of what they face.”

The civil rights activist later tweeted a reiteration of his support for Kaepernick: