He questioned the system and paid the price….
But 44 years ago, he played for the Dallas Cowboys for a single season as a middle linebacker. During his rookie season in 1973, the 23-year-old from Waco was a backup to a fading legend, Lee Roy Jordan, and was traded by October of 1974 before he vanished from pro football altogether just two years later.
His official Rice University biography, penned upon his induction into that school’s hall of fame in 2011, notes that his career was cut short by injuries. Bu that is not the whole truth. Rodrigo Barnes was, he has long believed, punished for being an outspoken black man in an industry controlled by white men. He was banished for being “a radical at a time when radicals weren’t popular”, beloved Cowboy’s wide receiver Drew Pearson once said.
It might be tempting to say that before there was a Colin Kaepernick, there was Rodrigo Barnes – a man exiled from the game he loved. There may be a certain truth to the comparison. Both men sacrificed their pro football careers to protest the treatment of black men in America.