In 2012, Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl. The team made it to the NFC Championship the next year. In 2014, the team awarded him a 6-year, $126 million contract.
The 2016 season hasn’t even started, and after losing the starting job to Blaine Gabbert last year, Kaepernick managed to further implode by refusing to stand for the national anthem on Aug. 26, in a pre-season game.
Oppression of black people? Is he even looking at his own sport? Sixty-eight percent of the NFL is black!
The NFL has not issued any penalty whatsoever against Kaepernick. Meanwhile, Hope Solo, the U.S. women’s soccer team’s world-class goaltender, had her contract terminated for calling Sweden’s soccer team “a bunch of cowards.”
Never mind the double standard, or the byzantine administrative procedures of professional sports. Solo has always been a lightning rod for controversy, but she’s a tough competitor, and misspoke in an emotional moment.
What Kaepernick did was disgraceful. The national anthem is a ritual that bonds every person at a sporting event. It asks us all to take a few moments and remember that we are all here because we are free, that many people have sacrificed their lives for us to remain free, and that even though we are about to witness a competition for which there will be only be one winner, we all remain united as Americans.
Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
There are so many things wrong here.
Oppression of black people? Is he even looking at his own sport? Sixty-eight percent of the NFL is black! Many have multi-million dollar contracts. Some have chosen to stand up and present themselves as examples of American exceptionalism and personal humility — look at the words and deeds of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Kaepernick seems to refer to the highly publicized shootings of black men over the past few years — several of which were found to be justified shootings. There have been African-Americans shot by law enforcement — both justified and unjustified — for decades. Why is he suddenly choosing this moment to protest? Why didn’t he do it the previous week? Last year? After a high-profile shooting?
Nor is an NFL game the best or most appropriate forum for his protest. It’s classless because it also disrespects the sport and the fans. What Solo did lacked class. The same is true here.
The most effective protest would have been to get out into the communities he is concerned with and make a difference there. Lobby San Francisco’s city council to create community outreach programs. Visit with black kids in poor neighborhoods. Deliver messages that, in America, if you work hard, you can accomplish just about anything. Mentor some disadvantaged kids. Spend some of those $116 million in those communities. Bring law enforcement and neighborhood kids together.
And when the media asks why he’s doing this, all he has to say is, “America can do better for these neighborhoods. I don’t want to see any more young black men dead in the streets.”
Then he’d suddenly be a hero.
Does Kaepernick have a right to free speech? Yes, he does, and any American should defend his right to do so. However, any American should also call him out on his stupidity.
As for the NFL, it is no surprise that they should punt the whole issue away by issuing a simple statement: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.” The league can’t even manage to suspend Tom Brady without literally making it a Supreme Court case. Why it can’t come out and say, at the very least, how disappointed the league is in Kaepernick shows yet another reason Roger Goodell has to go.