Photo: Slaven Vlasic (Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

Colin Kaepernick won the first of many fights in his legal battle against the NFL on Thursday when the arbitrator in the case denied the NFL’s request to dismiss the grievance entirely.

Sports Illustrated reports that the NFL specifically requested a summary judgment phase in hopes that Kaepernick’s collusion case against the organization would be dismissed entirely. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of Kaepernick, allowing the case to move forward toward a hearing.

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In his statement, Burbank wrote, “On August 28, 2018, the System Arbitrator [Burbank] denied the NFL’s request that he dismiss Colin Kaepernick’s complaint alleging that his inability to secure a player contract since becoming a free agent in March 2017 has been due to an agreement among team owners and the NFL that violates Article 17, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA (union).”

Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in August 2016—while he was still quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers—as a means of protesting police brutality, the extrajudicial killing of black people by police and racial inequality.

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His silent, respectful protest gained momentum as other players across the league and across American sports joined him by kneeling or speaking out against inequality. By the time the 2017 football season started, more players had begun kneeling during the anthem, creating a huge controversy in the NFL as some fans, team owners, politicians and even the president of the United States called the protests “disrespectful” and misrepresented them by saying the players were protesting the anthem itself.

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When Kaepernick became a free agent in March 2017, he was not picked up by any other teams. In October 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion.

Now all that remains to be seen is the outcome of the case.

So far, Kaepernick is winning.

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