Saturday, September 3, 2016

The whole Colin Kaepernick mess

I'm not sure what to make of Colin Kaepernick's actions.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume sincerity in the absence of contradictory evidence.  He seems sincere:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "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."  Source
 Let's start there and assume complete sincerity.  If Kaepernick believes that, then he's done a tremendously patriotic thing.  He's exercised his rights to freedom of expression in a meaningful way regarding something he sees wrong in the U.S.  This is precisely why that right which predated the Constitution* was guaranteed by it.  This is no different or more disrespectful than flying the flag upside down.  In fact, there are veterans and law enforcement officers strongly in support of Kaepernick's freedom of expression, whether or not they agree with his message.  Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter do have a point, though I wish they'd also advocate against a general disregard for life that statistics indicate exists in the Black community.

I've actually seen some ridiculous statements in support of Kaepernick, too.  One fellow stated, "You can either force people to stand for the National Anthem, or have free speech.  You can't have both."  That's taking it too far, as no one is advocating forcing anyone to stand.  Free speech goes both ways.  Those who don't like what Kaepernick did and do not support his message get to express themselves, too.  The discussion is healthy, and the straw man arguments and attempts at silencing disagreement are anti-free speech.  It's also important to recognize that rights aren't just privileges, they're also responsibilities that may come with repercussions.  Polite speech needs no defense, so any meaningful free speech act will likely upset some people and come with backlash, which is to be expected and may help further the discussion.

Unfortunately, Kaepernick took it a step farther, wearing socks with pigs in police hats to a game.  Don't get me wrong, that's still freedom of expression, but it's also pretty stupid and undermines his message.  Insulting all police is eroding the support he'd need for his message to matter.  It's generally unwise to paint all people of a certain group with the same brush.  The NFL has had a number of murderers, abusers and criminals of other sorts making the news in recent years.  It's quite a list, and I haven't crunched the numbers but I'd guess that NFL players are committing crimes at a higher rate than the general populace.  If we were to blame all NFL players for the actions of the criminals, then I could safely assume Kaepernick is a murderer and a domestic abuser.  That isn't true.  Similarly, most police officers are good, hard working people who are trying to make everyone safer.  We need the good officers to help us remove the bad ones from the force.  By losing the support of good officers, Kaepernick has shot his message in the back.

The choice may also cost the 49ers a lot of money and security.
A letter from the Santa Clara Police Officers Association sent to the 49ers was obtained Friday by KNTV-TV, the NBC affiliate in San Jose.

It says that Kaepernick’s protest has “threatened our harmonious working relationship” with the 49ers. About 70 officers from the Santa Clara Police Department patrol Levi’s Stadium when the 49ers play there.

“If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate behavior it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities,” the letter reads. “The board of directors of the Santa Clara PoliceOfficer’s Association has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior.”

It also criticized what it called anti-police statements made by Kaepernick, calling them “insulting, inaccurate and completely unsupported by any facts.”  Source
Much like the exercise of rights, stupidity also comes with repercussions.  Kaepernick has made himself a toxic asset, and since he's not the player he used to be** his career may be in jeopardy though 49ers haven't yet chosen to cut him as some people thought they might. 

In the end, the NFL exists to make money by entertaining people.  Kaepernick feels his message is more important than football, and it's possible he's made a future for himself as a community organizer instead of a professional athlete by seriously offending a lot of NFL fans and police officers.

*Benjamin Franklin commented on the freedom to express one's thoughts as a fundamental principle for any free country a half century before the 1st amendment was introduced:

"This sacred privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own." The full letter is available here.

**“Regardless of politics or not, [Kaepernick] has a very, very big uphill battle to make this team,” Glazer said. “I’d be shocked if he’s on the 49ers by the time this season ends. It has nothing to do with political views whatsoever. He lost a ton of weight this offseason, had three surgeries, couldn’t work out, lost that double threat, that size-speed ratio. No political views, he just hasn’t been effective. He’s regressing as a player. I’d be shocked if he’s on this roster by the end of this year. He may not be on it in the next two weeks.”  Source

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