by Alex Peterman
First part originally published in Locker Room Update
(see addendum by Gargs Allard below)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is making news for all the wrong reasons – or all the right ones. In the 49ers’ third preseason game, Kaepernick elected to remain seated during the nation anthem, in protest of the oppression that blacks face in everyday society.
Most of us can agree that America isn’t perfect. What many of us can’t agree on is justification for the platform Kaepernick is using to express that.
On the one hand, the quarterback is within his rights, per the first amendment. And he’s using that right to push for racial equality in a society that has seen police brutality among unfair economic and social treatment of black people. As a man of wealth and fame, he’s using the league’s platform to address those issues in a very public way.
On the other hand, his choice to sit for the anthem can be seen as more disrespectful than helpful. Although it’s his platform to use for his own purposes, many will note that this act is coming from someone that hasn’t gone out of his way to generate positive growth for the community he’s representing. It’s also interesting, these same people will note, that it’s hypocritical for Kaepernick to be arguing for racial equality in the first place, given the fact that there was a contested fine applied for his use of a racial slur back in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears during the 2014 season.
And thus, a proverbial army of warring words from both sides has begun – something that has raged for the last week and a half. Something that will continue to occur until either the situation is resolved, the movement ends, or another social phenomenon takes its place in the spotlight.
Part of this article’s purpose is to lay out the details of the differing opinions, but the other purpose is to give those opinions a tangible voice. I took a survey of some of the well-thought out considerations sent to me by football fans and non-football fans alike in order to present a survey of public thoughts on the subject.
Kyle Phelps took a more sports-oriented perspective, drawing attention to the fact that Kaepernick’s career is likely in jeopardy within the NFL. Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report recently reported on many NFL executives’ wishes to stay very clear of the 49ers’ quarterback now and in the future.
“I am completely 100% in support of his right to protest, even if he might be a terrible, terrible representation of his own cause,” Phelps said. “It’s a terrible career move, though, because he’s already a [terrible] player and generally obnoxious person. When the 49ers finally get rid of him, he may not be able to catch on anywhere else because no one will bother with the PR issues for his lack of talent.”
Ayron Beavers took a decidedly pro-freedom outlook on the situation, calling out the hypocrisy of a sort of forced conformity – something that goes against being American.
“When you deem it necessary to inflict shame, name calling, fear mongering, and other methods of uneducated rhetoric and actions as encouragement (force) of a free American to conform to your way of thinking and agree with the masses, you no longer represent the freedoms of America. You then represent a dictatorship,” Beavers stated. “Our country is supposed to reflect freedom and liberty. Not forced patriotism. And let’s say the backlash works in the masses favor and we force a fellow American to be patriotic. We’ll likely then crush him for being fake and doing it in fear of financial loss. Our country’s freedoms protected by our troops do NOT exclude the right to be critical of our nation nor policies in our nation. You can’t be critical of ANYTHING involving government procedure in many countries in this world. We fight to not be those nations.”
Taking a similar approach, Vanessa Contreras put it quite succinctly: “If standing were required, and sitting punishable, then what are we standing for?”
Asham Amir talks about the concept of “intention” in a different light in his discussion of the topic. It’s an outlook that I, at least, haven’t seen much of in the conversations flying around on the subject. Interestingly, he separates “intention” from Kaepernick’s “cause.”
“Standing for the pledge itself has become a bit robotic, as we are doing as the norm has been,” Amir said. “I honestly don’t even find not standing for it disrespectful, as the action of standing up for a song isn’t respect in actuality, but rather the intention of the action is. That same intention of respecting the anthem can occur while sitting down. The star spangled banner is played at most major events, how many times do you think people have stood with the intention of just doing it rather than attempting to show respect for the song, which again, is just a song. Isn’t that outcry worthy? Or no, because as long as the norm is followed, it’s fine? I do believe that there was an underlying acknowledgement of “respect” for the anthem by Kap. Hence, why he decided to use the anthem to gain awareness. At this point, it seems to me that everyone’s issue is rather that he didn’t do what everyone else was doing rather than having the intention to disrespect America. His cause and whatnot is a whole other issue which may have some flaws, but with a country that was founded on an “f u” to the perceived oppressor in order to maximize freedom for all, I feel as if this action fits right in.”
Synonymous with intention, Brandon Woolf mentions his beliefs on Kaepernick’s reasoning, drawing a line between this and his constitutional beliefs.
“As a pro-freedom individual, I believe that he has the right to sit down if he wants to,” Woolf begins. “Men and women have died for him to have that right. Constitutionally speaking, nothing protects him from punishment he may receive from the 49ers. I think his reasoning is severely flawed.”
Marc Young takes a more aggressive stance on the issue, but focuses on privilege, both for Kaepernick in his actions and the public in its rights to talk about it. That being said, he suggests the quarterback doesn’t consider the other side – the side that Kaepernick seems to imply are the “oppressors.”
“Let’s see, Kaepernick was born of multi-racial parents, adopted by and raised in a white family. Ok, he’s a multi-millionaire, but at the time of his statement, Kaepernick had not yet created or offered to create a charity giving his first million dollars to address the issues he has adopted. He wasn’t the slightest interested in giving up any of HIS privilege to try to make things better for those he believes are oppressed,” Young says. “He has no idea what it takes to be a police officer but assumes it’s less training than a hair stylist. He has no idea what it is like to put his life on the line for anyone. Or to have to make life and death decisions on a daily basis and continually have to walk into situations [where] all common sense says run the other way, and do it not for yourself or family, but do it for total strangers. He certainly has the right to speak and act like an immature over-privileged fool and the public has the right to reject his childish uninformed behavior.”
And though certainly not the last opinion sent in, Kyle Bevan’s is one I feel sums up the argument well, as well as one that represents a significant portion of the population I’ve spoken with.
“To an extent, the story has been over-examined, overblown and there are too many opinions,” Bevan starts. “People these days think their opinion is fact for some reason and if we are ever going to fix the big problems in this country we all need to learn to disagree without hate. I don’t agree with the way he chose to bring attention to the issue but I respect his right to do so. There are much more constructive/active ways to bring awareness to the racial issues in this country than disrespecting a patriotic tradition as he did.”
Something that was not brought up presents another intriguing argument here. Although Kaepernick is within his right of free speech, he’s also an employee of a very powerful company – the National Football League. And as easy as writing its own amendment on a piece of paper, the league can deem it against its contract law to sit for the national anthem.
A whole different can of worms to consider. Until then, should more players decide to join this movement, the NFL will likely face public backlash one way or the other. It should be interesting to see not only the public reaction, but the corporate one as well.
In the meantime, we watch the nation grapple with how to solve problems in an increasingly socially-conscious era.
With many of these responses, we see a certain word arise as a theme for the speaker’s interpretation of Kaepernick’s decision to sit.
Intention. Reasoning. Privilege. Conformity?
These are the words that generate the real conversations on the issue, beneath the superficial rhetoric. It’s through these discussions that we see the pallet of thoughtful considerations. When presented with such a controversial act, it’s easy to defer to the name-calling and the radical agendas. It’s the easiest way to avoid the real issue – and all it does is add fuel to a growing fire.
Collectively, let’s choose water over gasoline.
Addendum by Tune Groover Editor Gargs Allard:
When oft-Tune Groover contributor, Alex Peterman, asked if I would like to pick up his Colin Kaepernick story, which he published on his own site, Locker Room Update, I hesitated to agree at first, due to the controversial nature of the subject matter. While Tune Groover is mostly a music and entertainment site, we try to stay politically neutral when we do delve into politics, although admittedly, I lean to the left on most things, but I would never want to say anything to unreasonably alienate our readers.
After looking over Alex’s article, however, I thought it was fair and balanced enough to be published here and so I gladly did.
Upon having just carried it here, and since it is an article filled with various opinions, I would also like to add a few points of my own that I don’t believe were hit upon, and anyway, I can’t help myself, being very interested in both sports and politics. The San Francisco 49ers also happen to be my favorite football team (full disclosure – haha).
When I first heard about Colin’s sitting, I was puzzled because he did not look like it was done with confidence or was very well planned out. My perception may have been skirted by the fact that he wanted out of San Francisco after last season and the team was unable and/or unwilling to trade him at various times. He was an unhappy camper.
If you remember, in the fall and winter of 2012, Kaepernick was not only the 49er fans and media’s football darling but well near the MVP of the NFL for the second half of the 2012-2013 season. From the moment he smoked the Packers with mighty runs and passes that made him look like the bionic man on rocket fuel in the regular season, until he led the team to within five yards of winning the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick was the proverbial golden boy of the NFL.
While 2013-2014 was a pretty good season for Colin, the next two years started his spiral down the NFL drain – transforming himself from a cocky boy-wonder with stats to back it up into an often-confused man, who could not see secondary receivers very well, panicked in the pocket, and was pretty much figured out by the 31 other NFL defensive coordinators.
After spending a large portion of last year on the shelf with injuries, Colin reported to new Head Coach Chip Kelly’s camp, almost reluctantly, with noticeable muscle off his bones and a tired arm. He was fighting for his starting job and losing to Blaine Gabbert, a man with the worst winning pct. out of all NFL starting quarterbacks, and some wondered if he was even going to be retained by the team as a reserve.
Therefore seeing him sit during the playing of the national anthem before the team’s third preseason contest looked kind of pathetic.
Now, as Bob Dylan once said, “I’m liberal to a degree/ I want everybody to be free,” so I was willing to hear him out. After all, I’m a guy who doesn’t like the choice of songs for our national anthem in the first place. Instead of a war song, I would rather hear Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” every night before people face off in sporting events, sometimes beating the proverbial crap out of each other.
And while I’m also the guy who appreciates the sacrifice our brave and sincere soldiers make for us, I don’t really believe they have been actually fighting for our freedom since, say, World War II. I do believe they really believe they are, but more than likely they are enforcing the business interests of the the multi-national corporations throughout the world that have turned our military into the military industrial complex and have highjacked it for their own nefarious purposes.
I’m also a guy who knows that there are a lot of great people who work for the police in the US but that many others of them suffer from both small-man and dumb-man complex and often abuse their powers according to their warped psychologies through both projection and compensation. Minorities have thus been abused and regularly killed by the police since this country’s inception and while it feels like it’s increasing, I think it is more of a case that the actual situation is being brought to light by more video cameras in the hands of more people than ever before.
People with a conscious should be up in arms about this and if I was a police officer I would want a full cleansing of the force to take place in order to clear the names of the countless good-guy officers who are inspired to protect their fellow citizens from real bad guys (and the occasional bad gal).
That’s why when I heard that the Santa Clara police might boycott the Monday night 49er opener (the day after 911) that I thought something was amiss. If you were a police officer wouldn’t you want something to be done ASAP to root out the bad officers from your ranks? I know I would.
Also, hearing Colin Kaepernick’s press conference convinced me that he was sincere, is willing to work with officials, and wants to help make the world a better place. Players are joining him in protest and he even put his money where his mouth is by donating $1 million to the cause.
You see, to me, true patriotism is what Colin Kaepernick is doing by using his name, fame and former glory to protest atrocities that have been going on far too long on American soil.
And who knows, making a stand by sitting like this might actually make him grow his balls a little bigger and become a dominant force on the football field again.