Former footballer turned civil rights hero Colin Kaepernick paid a surprise visit to inmates at New York’s infamous Rikers Island prison today, according to reports.
Kaepernick was reportedly there to visit with and encourage detainees at the George Motchan Detention Center.
Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, has not played since 2016, after taking a knee to protest treatment of African Americans by the criminal justice system and law enforcement–including in correctional facilities.
Kaep’s visit to the sprawling prison was not welcomed by a correctional officers union, which retaliated by canceling Christmas: the group quickly withdrew its sponsorship for a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in protest of Kaep’s visit.
The union sponsors a coffee truck and free donuts–only for officers though–during the ceremony.
The union president, Elias Husamudeen, claimed Kaep’s visit “will only encourage inmates to continue to attack Correction Officers at a time when we need more protection,” then blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for allowing the visit to occur, saying the visit was “hypocrisy on the behalf of the mayor”, and is part of de Blasio’s “con-game”.
But others hailed Kaep’s visit to the notoriously violent facility as something that was positive and needed.
“Colin Kaepernick visited Rikers today to share a message of hope and inspiration,” said Correction Department spokesman Peter Thorne.
Added inmate advocate Glenn Martin, founder of JustLeadershipUSA, which is working to shutter the prison, “The world should see the hell that is Rikers Island.”
“Colin’s profile has helped shed light where it is needed. The fact that correction officers are more focused on his socks while people are getting their brains bashed in is despicable”, he said.
“Colin understands that the systemic racism he’s fighting nationally is epitomized on Rikers.”, he added.
Rikers has been the setting for a number of assaults and murders.
Both a number of inmates and officers have been injured or killed at the legendarily dangerous facility.
Reportedly, correctional officers are particularly appalled with Kaepernick because of some socks he wore in 2016, which depicted cops as cartoon pigs.