MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said Sunday he believes his comments to South Florida media last week about former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro were taken out of context.
"What I said was I agree with the investment in education," Kaepernick said. "I also agree with the investment in free universal healthcare as well as the involvement in him helping end apartheid in South Africa. I would hope that everybody agrees those things are good things. And trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that he did is just not true."
"What I said was I agree with the investment in education. I also agree with the investment in free universal healthcare as well as the involvement in him helping end apartheid in South Africa. ... Trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that he did is just not true.""Colin Kaepernick
On a conference call with Miami media last week before Castro's death, Kaepernick was asked about a T-shirt he wore early in his protest of racial oppression and inequality that showed Castro and Malcolm X together in 1960 with the phrase "like minds think alike."
Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero, a Cuban exile, and Kaepernick went back and forth on the subject. Kaepernick pointed to Castro's investment in education, leading to a high literacy rate in Cuba, as a positive outcome of his time in power. Kaepernick also said he was wearing the shirt in support of Malcolm X more than as a commentary on how he feels about Castro.
All of that happened before Kaepernick and the Niners played the Dolphins on Sunday in South Florida, which has the largest Cuban population in the United States. Dolphins fans loudly booed Kaepernick as he and the 49ers offense ran onto the field for their first drive.
After the Niners' 10th straight loss, Kaepernick said he could understand why this community would have objections over any support of Castro, but he again said the goal of the shirt was not to show support for Castro's oppression.
"I can understand the concern, but for me, what I said was that was a historic moment for Malcolm," Kaepernick said. "I'm not going to cut out pieces of Malcolm's life. In 1960, when they met in Harlem, that was a historic moment -- and that's something I will always be true to what Malcolm was, what he represented, because I'm not going to cut out history."
Castro died Friday in Cuba, sparking an emotional reaction and celebrations in the Little Havana part of Miami over the weekend. Kaepernick called the fact that he played in South Florida two days after Castro's death "very unique circumstances."
Before Sunday's game against the Dolphins, Kaepernick again knelt during the national anthem as he has all season. After the game, he wore a Malcolm X T-shirt, as he has after other games.
"I've worn many Malcolm X shirts," Kaepernick said. "He was a great man and he lived the life that he talked about. He was someone that truly walked the walk, was a great leader for the African community, and was someone that I admire." Kaepernick has faced plenty of scrutiny since his protest was first noticed in August, recently getting negative reactions for his decision not to vote and then for his comments on Castro.
Asked if he was worried that his message was being lost in some of those choices, Kaepernick demurred.
"I don't worry about people losing track of what the message is because I've been true to the message," Kaepernick said. "I'm against systematic oppression and voting is a part of that system, and I have talked at length about why I believe that."
Kaepernick fell to 0-6 as the 49ers' starter this season but rallied his team in the fourth quarter of San Francisco's 31-24 loss Sunday.
The 49ers trailed 31-14 with eight minutes left but scored twice, forced a punt and started at their 38 with 1:44 to go. Kaepernick drove them to the 6 but scrambled on the final play and was stopped at the 2 when sandwiched by Kiko Alonso and Ndamukong Suh.
"I could tell he was going to try to tuck it in and run, and everyone did a good job of running to the ball and stopping him,'' Alonso said.
Alonso, ironically, is a Cuban-American. He said he was pleased to learn from relatives about the former dictator's death and the resulting celebrations in Miami.
"I heard there were some big parties on Calle Ocho,'' Alonso said. "I know that my father was happy.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.