Synopsis: Whether reading this post when written in Fall 2016 or at some later time, you likely recognize the image of Colin Kaepernick on one knee. Specifically, the 49ers quarterback single-handedly started a movement to kneel during our national anthem prior to the start of sporting events. Kaepernick presumably decided that his act of defiance would bring a voice to social injustice and oppression. While the message should be incontrovertible, the method has drawn much criticism. As such, the message unfortunately has taken a back seat to the messenger.
Top 10 Busted: Colin Kaepernick
Unlike the ALS Ice Bucket challenge from Summer 2014, the movement to kneel during the playing of our national anthem hasn’t become viral. The former relied on social media to draw awareness to a worthy cause (i.e. ALS research) in a fun and light-hearted way. In contrast, the latter relies on traditional media to draw awareness to a worthy cause in an offensive way. Unfortunately, Colin Kaepernick’s protest focuses more on the act than the underlying message.
OOPS! I GUESS SOMEONE FORGOT ABOUT WEARING THOSE OFFENSIVE SOCKS
I initially started writing this post in September 2016, but decided to wait to see how the story would play out before making premature conclusions. As of November 2016, Kaepernick’s demonstration has been copied across numerous venues (e.g. women’s soccer, college football, high school sports). Still, the underlying message remains muddled.
THE MESSAGE – POLICE DISPROPORTIONATELY KILL AFRICAN-AMERICANS
FACT #1: White people make up 62% of the U.S. population but only 49% of those killed by police officers. Black people, however, account for 24% of those fatally shot by the police despite being just 13% of the U.S. population.
Given the disproportionate killing of black people by police officers, one could reasonably conclude that a racial bias exists. However, the following fact needs to be included in the conversation.
FACT #2: According to the Department of Justice, black people accounted for 52% of all homicides from 1980-2008.
Based on this statistic, one could reasonably conclude that police officers have a reasonable basis to be more afraid when confronting a black person. Before you get too worked up, I’m simply presenting both sides of the argument.
Regardless of both facts, we all have seen enough videos showing inexplicable shootings (i.e. murders) of African-Americans by police officers. Those videos are cringe-worthy for everyone regardless of race. At the same time, it’s important to note that these bad cops account for a very, very small percentage of those who have taken it upon themselves to protect and serve. Still, the underlying message of Black Lives Matter deserves attention. Unfortunately, the messenger doesn’t.
THE MESSENGER – COLIN KAEPERNICK
Prior to the start of the 2016 NFL season, Colin Kaepernick disclosed his discontent after being demoted to back-up quarterback. Specifically, he wanted to be traded to a team that would give him an opportunity to start again. Against Kaepernick’s desires, the 49ers decided to keep him despite his $14 million salary. Might he have taken a potentially controversial stand (or kneel) to force a trade? Of course!
As shown by the photo earlier in this post (i.e. the one with the “Pig” socks), Kaepernick has some “splainin” to do.
IN CASE YOU MISSED THE REFERENCE
It’s one thing to promote Black Lives Matter. It’s a completely different thing to condemn all police officers instead of exposing the bad ones. I think Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy best summarized the potential hypocrisy.
I don’t want all cops getting a bad rap for what bad cops are doing, because there are still good cops. And at the end of the day, if there’s something wrong going on, or there’s something that is dangerous, I’m sure Kap will call the cops. He’ll call 911.
Before accepting McCoy’s comments unconditionally, you should know that he’s in the middle of his own PR campaign after being involved in the assault of two off-duty police officers in February 2016.
With respect to Colin Kaepernick, I don’t know enough about him to gauge his sincerity. However, I do know that his demonstration seems disconnected with the message. In particular, he supposedly reviles the country which gave him the opportunity to make $14 million per year while watching football games from the sidelines. It’s hard for anyone to identify with that “pain.”
FELLOW MESSENGER – MEGAN RAPINOE
In a show of support for the cause, Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe decided to kneel during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner prior to National Women’s Soccer League games. When his team faced the Reign in a September 2016 match-up, Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch ordered the playing of the anthem while the players still were in their locker rooms. In essence, he refused to let Rapinoe tarnish the moment.
While Lynch’s decision may or may not have been justified, Rapinoe’s reaction certainly wasn’t. In particular, she said:
I have had conversations with Spirit players current and past, the fact that they don’t have a Pride Night. They have gay players like everyone else. They’ve made it pretty clear, at least internally, that that’s not a game they are interested in, which is homophobic to me. I don’t know if it was directly at me because I’m gay and it’s a protest I am making as a gay woman. Bit of a stretch, but yeah I do think that Bill Lynch is homophobic.
In sum, Rapinoe believes that the Spirit owner is homophobic because his team doesn’t have a Pride Night to honor the LGBTQ community. Based on that standard, more than 99.9% of business owners must be homophobic.
Somehow, her protest became even more appalling when she decided to kneel prior to the start of a U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) game in October 2016. Rapinoe cited rights afforded to her by our Constitution by saying, “I truly feel like I’m representing my country in doing this.” Afforded those same rights, any American should feel free to call her a hypocrite. Of note, I wonder what US Olympic Hockey Coach Herb Brooks would say about any player putting his or her personal interests above those of the national team.
WHO DO YOU PLAY FOR?
Perhaps even worse, Rapinoe overshadowed the retirement of long-time teammate Heather O’Reilly. While Rapinoe might not appreciate hypocrisy, she certainly appreciates irony.
WHILE THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM, THERE IS A “M-E”
— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) September 16, 2016
Rapinoe’s support of Kaepernick can be commended. Unfortunately, she hurt another worthwhile cause in the process. In particular, the USWNT has a pending wage discrimination lawsuit based on unequal pay relative to the men’s national team. Well Megan, declining attendance and/or television ratings certainly won’t help your teammates’ chances of winning the case.
Interestingly, USWNT coach Jill Ellis shook up the roster shortly after the controversial gesture. In addition to Megan Rapinoe, players like Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Julie Johnston were kept off the team. According to the coach, she simply wanted to evaluate younger talent. Yeah, right! While Ellis invited each of those players back, only one didn’t dress for the final match of 2016.
COUNTER MESSENGER – SAM KENDRICKS
If you don’t know who Sam Kendricks is, then you need to make it through this next section. As an athlete, Kendricks deserves recognition for winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. As a US Army reservist, he deserves our admiration for his reaction during the playing of the national anthem while competing in his own event.
In case you didn’t click on the link under the picture, I’ll give you one more chance. I hope you got the same goosebumps I did when seeing Kendricks abort his attempt because he heard the Star Spangled Banner starting to play in the stadium. I also hope you noticed him look for an American flag as he STOOD at attention.
[Perhaps needless to say, my wife chose not to listen to me when reading this article for the first time. Specifically, she chose not to watch the Kendricks video. Fortunately, I know her well enough to know how much she would appreciate it. Well, she just stood over my shoulder and cried after watching the clip. Last chance to click on the link. Trust me, it’s that good.]
Similar to Kaepernick and Rapinoe, I have never risked my life to ensure the freedoms I enjoy every day. Unlike them, however, I refuse to dishonor the people who have by using the national anthem (or the flag) as a form of protest. Please note, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have the right to protest. However, I am saying that they’re not exempt from the repercussions of their protests.
For me, the biggest problem with the kneeling movement involves the disconnect between the message and the form of protest. If Kaepernick and Rapinoe had refused to play (or get paid) instead, their messages would have been heard loud and clear. Given their true motives of self-promotion, however, there’s no way either one would have done it.
Perhaps in an attempt to quiet the intense negative reaction, Kaepernick announced his intention to donate $1 million to charities which focus on racial issues. Before giving him a free pass, you should realize that he made $4.4 million while standing on the sidelines this season alone.
When Kapernick’s protest began over two months ago, ESPN provided 24/7 coverage. Unfortunately, the network’s liberal bias/agenda couldn’t be disguised. As if you couldn’t tell from my last article about Hillary Clinton, I identify politically as a conservative. Given my views, I watch FoxNews, tolerate CNN, and avoid MSNBC. I used to watch ESPN at least two hours every day. But for live sporting events, I now completely avoid it. The one network that I considered indispensable as part of my cable package has become marginal.
HEY ESPN, YOU’RE FAILING BUSINESS 101. DON’T PISS OFF YOUR CUSTOMERS!
While I’m not ready to cancel my subscription to ESPN quite yet, others have in droves. Instead, I simply have changed my viewing habits. I refuse to watch entitled athletes (or sports reporters) who preach about topics outside of their areas of expertise. Of course, they have every right to speak out. Similarly, I have every right to stop watching them. My actions on their own won’t change a thing. However, it appears that a lot of viewers feel like I do.
Furthermore, it appears that a lot of Americans feel like I do. We’re fed up with entitled athletes, biased media, and crooked politicians. If you doubt that statement, you probably never thought that Donald Trump could be elected President. At the same time, you probably doubt that Colin Kaepernick has had an negative impact on NFL ratings. Hey Roger Goodell, pay attention or you’ll be as blindsided as every Hillary Clinton supporter (and Saturday Night Live cast member) was two weeks ago.