A few weeks ago Colin and I talked about the NFL, Colin Kapernick and Eric Reid having finally reached a settlement in the lawsuit in which the two players were alleging the NFL had blacklisted them for protests they were carrying out before the game. I don’t need to get too deep into that because I’m sure everyone remembers the debacle over kneeling during the national anthem.
In the time this controversy was capturing the media I heard no shortage of variations of arguments both in favor of and against Kaep specifically for the way he was choosing the carryout protests. We heard both that he was unamerican and a patriot. That he disrespects veterans and soldiers who fought for this country while also hearing from many that it was Kaepernicks very right to protest however he wanted that they were fighting for.
We have talked about this situation numerous times especially the longer it went on and the longer I felt my view was not being represented enough in the argument. On episode 7 when Morgan was on for the first time, I went on a bit of a tear, as I’m prone to doing, and tried to explain really how I feel. But for some reason when we talked about the settlement I started to feel like I was not clear enough about how I felt. So I decided I would take this opportunity to re-explain myself. Not because I think the world or even our audience is starved for my opinion on Kaep, but because even though I haven’t met one, I know there is another person in this world that felt the same way I did during this entire controversy.
Right off the top, I don’t see any disrespect in what Kaep did. Everyone who said it is correct, he is 100% entitled to his right to free speech and his right to his own opinion. I also tend to agree that there is a problem between unarmed black individuals and the police that are supposed to protect them. I don’t know exactly what that problem is, but that’s a whole separate issue in itself. Before I move on I would just like to note that I understand Kaep’s stance was on racial inequality in general, a cause which I fully support the fight for, and don’t mean to oversimplify his message.
I don’t think it’s wrong at all for him to use his stature as an NFL athlete, and at the time starting Quartback, to bring light to a social issue he saw as detrimental to American society. As wrong as I think the comparisons are, Muhammad Ali’s name had floated around a lot, and I suppose in the loosest of terms I can understand the relation. But I will address that more soon. As an NFL athlete, everything Kaep does is done with that context and that power behind it – No matter what. To expect him to make his politics separate from that I feel is unreasonable and almost impossible.
However, while he is on the field – or at any organized team activity – he is an employee of the NFL and is therefor subject to their terms of employment. If he is told to show up and play the game, he is faced with the same option I would be at my job; shut up, get paid, and find another way to express my views or to find another job that will allow me to do so. This separation of the two is not only hypocritical but directly contradictory to the message of equity being expressed. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing title AND license for his refusal to commit to be drafted and abandon his beliefs. But for some reason the same was not to be expected of Kaep.
Part of the reason I don’t agree with or support at all the comparison between Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick is the personnel differences in the sports in which they competed respectively. Boxing is two men. One on one fighting until one wins. Football is about a roster of 53 men, 11 of which are on a field at once to represent their team. While Muhammad Ali was boxing, or doing ANYTHING, he was sure to represent only himself. The World Boxing Association was sure to emphasize this by stripping him of his title and then further solidified when every U.S. state systematically denied him a boxing license. Colin Kaepernick does not conduct himself this way.
Not only is he just 1 of 53 men on a roster of one of the most, if not THE most, team focused professional sports, he was the Quarterback. The Quarterback is the undisputed leader of his team. Even with the General Manager and Head Coach, when it comes down to game time the QB is the one making the calls for audible, reading the coverage and making the passes. His job is to deny credit for victory and accept responsibility for loss. His job is to always show strength and leadership for his team. His job is to show an example of teamwork in order to try and receive that from his team. Colin Kaepernick acted independently in his decision to deny the will of his employer and expressed his personal opinion on a national stage provided by the NFL, all while taking a check from them and talking about inequality. This is not an example of ideal team work.
At the end of the day Kaep’s position is subject to the will of his employers, those who hired him to lead a team of 53 men. Instead he acted independently on their time while taking their money, and ultimately the dispute is over whether or not he was black listed because of his views, and in my opinion, he wasn’t. If it’s me reading the signs, Kaep was an alright QB when he “lost his job”, definitely better than some of the scrubs that started in the time he was gone. But he also expressed to the other owners, General Managers and Head Coaches in the league that he couldn’t be trusted to act in the best interest of the team because in the end, his agenda reigned supreme; with expressions and demonstrations that were attracting a lot of controversial media attention, something a lot of teams may not have wanted. He was then actively involved in a lawsuit against the very organization he was requesting to play for. I see no shortage of reasons that teams may not have wanted to sign him.
Again I don’t think he is totally wrong. He is, in a sense, using his stature as an athlete to bring attention to racial injustice in America. If for nothing other than to show this is more than just a criticism, I actually have an idea, or at least an opinion, on what may have been a better way to achieve the goal he was striving for while avoiding the proceeding consequences. To avoid conflict with the league but continue to express the full force behind his status as an athlete, Kaep should have called a press conference on a problem he held very dear to his heart. Not after practice or a game and not at any type of team or organization facility. Outside of city hall in San Francisco on a Tuesday after a game, for example. Use the position, while being separate from the organization.
If Kaep felt that doing something during a game was necessary, so be it. I don’t agree and think that he should have been prepared for the possible backlash from the league and from the public, but he has the right to try. However because he is on this team of 53 I have spoken so much about, I don’t feel he should have done any type of on-field demonstration without the understanding, support, and blessing of every member of that team. If even one player on that team said they were not comfortable with his choice he should not have carried out these protests in the way he did. I cannot personally attest that his didn’t happen so I will gladly admit this statement is pure conjecture, but I stand firm in it until proven incorrect.
My intent is not to make Colin Kaepernick look like a villain. I don’t believe he is. I believe he is an incredibly talented and intelligent man with intensely strong morals. I believe he did his due diligence to ensure he was not offending any active duty or veteran service members in the way he chose to protest. I do not, however, feel he did the same in regards to the fans of the NFL and in turn the people who give him his job. As I am living proof of, I do not disagree with the message that Kaep was and I assume still is fighting for. I have a problem with the fact that he openly disrespected a game and organization he continued to and would still like to draw a paycheck from. The inauthenticity I feel is obvious. It continues to shock me that this has gotten so far away from where it started – the sport.
I think it’s important to note that the terms of the recent settlement have not been disclosed and this could mean any numbers of things. It could mean that either Kaep or the NFL got tired of the arguments and wanted it to be over. It could also mean that there was strong evidence on one side that made the other nervous enough about their chances to win that they accepted a settlement. I don’t assume one of these things over the other. I wouldn’t place blame on any one party involved either. I think one man made a decision that rippled through the media more than he could have imagined, partially fueled by President Trump. And it happened during a time where the culture is so extreme and so divisive that it promoted a reaction from a league that for some reason barely knows how to handle players who beat women, let alone a player who wants to be politically active.
This theme seems to be carrying over many aspects of modern life. The media, the sports, the politics don’t seem to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing culture in this country. I think this is temporary. I think we are in a time of heightened division in this country and the last time we were this divided as a country, college students were shot at Kent State by the national guard. Sometimes it takes an event so shocking and culture shattering that it forces us to re-evaluate what we are doing. America is equipped to handle divisive events like this. We are made to handle it and come out on the other end stronger than ever.