On the eve of Super Bowl LIII, a solitary mural to Colin Kaepernick is no more.
Artist Fabian Williams, who painted the mural of Kaepernick standing next to Muhammad Ali on the side of an abandoned building on the corner of Fair Street and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, said the building was torn down this week.
“I just happened to be driving by when they were doing it and it took a minute for me to mentally recognize that it was happening,” Williams said. “Symbols matter man. You destroyed the whole building it was on? If I were an interpreter of performance art, what message would you take from that?”
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, launched a protest movement in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality toward black men. Several players followed Kaepernick’s lead, which even got the attention of President Trump.
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the league since 2017 and there’s a pending National Football League Players Association lawsuit against the league, alleging that team owners, influenced by President Donald Trump, conspired against him.
When Kaepernick wasn’t able to get a job, Williams painted the quarterback in an Atlanta Falcons uniform.
“I thought Atlanta, because of our civil rights history, would be a perfect place for him,” Williams said.
Williams, who sometimes paints under the name, “Occasional Superstar,” has painted murals and projects all over the city. He was driving through Atlanta one day when he was struck by the space, which is right across the street from the Morehouse College basketball arena and about a mile from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The wall had been used as a space to promote advertisements for albums, parties and movies. Williams never sought permission to paint on the wall and met the building’s owner once.
“He said he liked it,” Williams said. “But said that the city was complaining to him about it.”
The owner of the building could not be reached.
About six months ago, a fire ravaged the building, but the wall remained intact. Williams had planned on spending all day Saturday touching up the mural in time for the Super Bowl.
“I figured at some point they would tear the building down, but it has been sitting up this whole time,” Williams said. “The fact that the Super Bowl happens here and the weekend when the festivities are gearing up, the building gets demolished is very odd.”
Meanwhile, Williams is moving on. He painted another Kaepernick mural on a wall on Peeples Street.
And he just completed a mural commissioned by Nike, “Where Dreams are Made,” on the side of the Westside Cultural Arts Center in Midtown.
Ernie Suggs is an enterprise reporter covering race and culture for the AJC since 1997. A 1990 graduate of N.C. Central University and a 2009 Harvard University Nieman Fellow, he is also the former vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists. His obsession with Prince, Spike Lee movies, Hamilton and the New York Yankees is odd.