As a first amendment absolutist I support Colin Kaepernick’s right to make whatever statement he wants about his political beliefs. But since I’m a full bore proponent of the marketplace of ideas, I also feel very comfortable saying this — Kaepernick is a fucking idiot.
Let me explain.
“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.”
First, who is getting away with murder? That’s a strong accusation. Who in particular has committed murder in this country and not been charged with it? If you’re going to make this statement then you need to give us particulars that motivate your decision and your beliefs. I don’t want bland generalities, I want specifics here. If you feel strongly enough to refuse to “stand up to show pride in a flag,” then you need to have some basis for your decision. So far Kaepernick has shown none. Indeed, his Twitter feed is a hodgepodge of unintelligible retweets of random, often incorrect, Internet articles that have no coherent connection. In typical social justice warrior, PC bromani fashion, Kaepernick has chosen to make his voice heard in a way that pretty much only draws attention to him and does nothing to make any situation better. That’s fine, but what exactly is Kaepernick proving by making this point?
Moreover, why, in his sixth season in the NFL, did he suddenly decide that the country is oppressing black people and people of color. Presumably the country’s black president didn’t make a decision this year to suddenly lead a country into systemic oppression of black people. So what has suddenly changed that made him willing to stand for five years for the national anthem and unwilling to stand this year? He needs to offer a reasonable explanation for what has changed that led to his decision to stop supporting the country’s anthem.
Again, I support Kaepernick’s right to voice his political opinion — a robust and uninhibited first amendment is what makes this country great — but if you’re going to demand that your voice be heard, you better be able to explain why you want your voice to be heard when we give you the attention you’re demanding. Kaepernick’s explanation is a bland and cliche-riddled statement lacking in specificity or direct connection to any tangible goal. This isn’t Ali standing up to the Vietnam War or athletes demanding equal treatment under the law during the civil rights movement, it’s an absurd attention-seeking statement with no substance behind it.
Once you make the decision to enter the marketplace of ideas, in my opinion, you’re obligated to put forward a coherent reason for your decision-making if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise, I can feel free, thanks to this same first amendment that you’re using to gain attention, to pronounce you a daft prima donna whose football talents have so deteriorated you aren’t even capable of beating out Blaine freaking Gabbert to be quarterback. As if that weren’t enough I can also say that based on your Twitter feed you look like a lost and psychologically unstable individual.
Second, what does the United States do to oppress black people? I’m not being obtuse with this question, what tangible decisions does the United States government — currently helmed by a black man as president and a black woman as head of the justice department — make that oppress black people and other people of color? I want actual governmental actions that legally treat black people differently in a negative fashion and that Kaepernick feels need to be changed. Again, once you demand that your voice be heard in this fashion, you need to explain what you want changed. I don’t want bullshit generalities, I want specific issues that have so troubled you that you feel the need to stop standing for the national anthem for the first time in your six year NFL career.
Because when I review federal law, what I see is the exact opposite of black oppression. Everyone is treated as equally as they possibly can be by the federal government. There is no systemic racism in our federal government. In fact, affirmative action is actually a governmental attempt to treat black people unequally — that is more favorably than other people — solely because of their race. If anything, the United States government’s laws discriminate in favor of black people based on their skin color. I’m open to hearing what systemic oppression Kaepernick believes the United States government is undertaking and what he believes need to be redressed. But he has provided none of these specifics so far. If you want me to treat your opinions with respect, you need to provide opinions worthy of respect. Not just insipid generalities.
Third, once you make a political statement like this your own life becomes worthy of discussion and analysis. Kaepernick was raised by two white parents after his own birth parents weren’t willing or able to raise him themselves. If the country is fundamentally racist, doesn’t the fact that two white people chose to raise an abandoned black child offer persuasive evidence that his analysis of the country’s racial composition is overly broad and not supported by his own life experience? Moreover, Colin Kaepernick received a free college education based on his football talents and he’s currently being paid over $19 million this year. Last year he made over $20 million. If that’s governmental oppression, sign me up.
Fourth, Kaepernick has put his team, his coaches, and his organization directly in the firing line based upon his political statement. Every single teammate and coach will be asked about his refusal to stand for the national anthem. Already the 49ers organization has had to issue an official statement that disagrees with Kaepernick’s stance:
“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 our celebration of the national anthem.”
As if that weren’t enough, Kaepernick, despite being paid over $19 million, is currently being beaten out by Blaine Gabbert to be the starting quarterback for the 49ers this year. It would be one thing if Kaepernick had made this statement as one of the top quarterbacks in the league — which at one point he was — instead this just looks like the desperate and unsubstantiated rantings of someone who is aware he will soon fall back into football oblivion. What’s more, this also gives him a convenient excuse if he’s benched or released by the 49ers, they did this based on my political opinions, not based on my talent. Maybe that will make him feel better when he’s unemployed, but it shouldn’t.
Fifth, whether or not you believe that the national anthem should play before sporting events — I’ve personally always found it strange that pro sporting events, which are just entertainment, play the national anthem before games. After all, we don’t play the national anthem before movies. — your decision not to stand has been defended by countless soldiers of all races who have lost their lives defending your rights to make millions of dollars playing a game for a living. Many of those same soldiers, of all races, religions and creeds, are fans of your team or your league. When you choose to make a political statement that directly attacks what they defend, you better be really damn sure that you’re offering a coherent political statement that advances a cause worthy of the lives that have been lost to give you the right to disrespect the country.
And the sad truth is this — Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem, at least thus far, isn’t supported by any actionable or coherent political belief or tangible call to action. Worse than that, it’s not just an insult to many people in this country, it’s an insult to anyone with a working brain.
Put simply, Colin Kaepernick is a fucking idiot.