“What the hell’s going on out here?!?”- Vince Lombardi
Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t care about Colin Kaepernick. I don’t care that he refuses to stand for the national anthem. I don’t care what he thinks about the state of race relations in this country. I don’t care that he seems to equate Malcolm X and Fidel Castro with justice. I don’t care about his promise to continue his protest until some vague “change” occurs in America. I don’t even care that he’s likely only doing all this so he can disingenuously point to it as the cause when the 49ers inevitably release him, if they can’t trade him away.
I wrote in this space a number of months ago on politics in sports, although at the time it was specific to baseball. The NFL has traditionally been slightly more risk averse where political statements by players or teams are concerned, often to a ludicrous extent. The NFL is a private organization and can react or not react to Kaepernick’s antics however they like, although I suspect their stance will mirror the milquetoast statement of the 49ers, “recognizing” Kaepernick’s right to protest but “disagreeing” with his method. The statement is technically defensible as far as it goes and also just so happens to skirt offending either those inclined to agree with Kaepernick or those inclined to vehemently disagree. In modern corporate America, it’s really the only stance the NFL can take.
Personally, I’m not even much interested in whether or not Kaepernick’s perceived grievances are true, or even truly his. Abandoned by a black father and white mother and raised by an adoptive white family, it would be natural for him to seek an explanation why, and easy for him to find some form of systemic racism to blame for his father being unable to raise him, thus absolving his father of guilt. But that’s pop psychology. Speculation that Kaepernick was, in a sense, “Jimi Hendrixed” on racial issues when he reached the NFL isn’t all that interesting, either.
Kaepernick’s stated reasoning for his protest, that the U.S. is a country “that oppresses black people and people of color,” has drawn the expected fire, mainly in the form of statements to the effect that Kaepernick is disrespecting veterans and that he is showing support for anti-police factions with his comment that “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He has been painted, justifiably, as essentially a spoiled recipient of the very privilege he is protesting.
In their statement the San Francisco 49ers say: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in the celebration of the national anthem.”
It’s easy to say “well sure, when it comes to a left wing cause of course the NFL is all for freedom of speech but when Tim Tebow wore his Christianity on his sleeve the NFL wasn’t quite so gung ho about it.” That’s a fair criticism. There certainly does seem to be a double standard at times. But that doesn’t make the 49ers statement any less true. It’s the position we should all be taking. Trying to make Kaepernick out to be anything other than what he is (essentially a black male Jane Fonda) just gives him what he wants, more mics in his face in the press conferences.
Not standing for the anthem is a juvenile and ham-handed method of protesting, especially when what you’re protesting is largely a myth. But calling Kaepernick a traitor, using the “if you’re so oppressed just leave” line, these are equally ham-handed. Because Kaepernick is an American citizen. He is free to protest whatever stupid cause, in whatever stupid way, he sees fit. That fact, that ideal, should be something we all recognize as a glorious thing instead of debating who’s a “real” American and threatening boycotts depriving ourselves of watching a sport we love because of what one idiot backup quarterback believes.
One of the great tragedies of modern America is that the government has intruded into the lives of citizens to such a great extent that people can no longer shrug off political disagreements because political control of the government by the ‘other side’ actually DOES have the potential to affect lives. Kaepernick is protesting cops (the government) in California, of all places. So maybe Colin needs to take a deeper look at what the real problems might be. He might find the answers aren’t to be found in more or better government. If he really wants to feel oppressed, he should look at his tax returns. Then he can really start hating the Man.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.