San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a stir last week when he announced that he has been sitting out the national anthem, as a protest against police brutality and racial prejudice in America.
"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 the press. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick’s stand, of course, caused a major controversy. A few responses to the most frequent criticisms of the quarterback:
How has Kaepernick been oppressed? He has a $100 million contract!
Kaepernick has stated throughout the controversy that he’s not protesting on his own behalf -- he’s doing so on behalf of those who have been victimized. He also recently announced a $1 million donation to charities that help communities in need. I get the sense that everyone trashing Kaepernick would still be doing so if he were making the league minimum this year.
How can Kaepernick be in any position to protest? He had a bad year last year!
I wasn’t aware that free speech rights were contingent on peak athletic performance in the recent past. And once again, if Kaepernick had been in the Super Bowl last year, instead of three years ago, everyone trashing him would still be trashing him.
What has Kaepernick ever sacrificed?
Well, he’s stuck his neck out for a highly controversial political cause, causing probably half the #Football fans in America to hate his guts forever, and in doing so jeopardized both his roster spot and his off-the-field endorsement deals. Taking this stand is considerably more perilous to Kaepernick’s future career prospects than not taking it would have been.
But Kaepernick is biracial! He was adopted and raised by a white family!
So what? As Adam Serwer eloquently wrote in The Atlantic this week, for people of complex racial backgrounds to come into self-awareness in adulthood is a long American tradition that includes the current president of the United States, who wrote an entire book about it.
Kaepernick also said Hillary Clinton should be in jail!
This is argument advanced by conservative sports blogger Clay Travis. This supposes that Kaepernick’s stance has anything to do with the presidential election or Democratic/Republican horserace politics. It really doesn’t, at all.
I agree with what he did -- but not with the way he did it
This is a popular sports columnist trope. That’s why it’s his stand, and not yours. He’s himself, he’s not you.
How dare he insult our troops!
Once again, Kaepernick only “insulted the troops” in the way that liberals who opposed the War in Iraq in 2004 “insulted the troops” -- which is to say, not at all. See #veteransforKaepernick for more.
"I don't want him anywhere near my team. He’s a traitor”
This was an anonymous quote from an NFL front office executive, who appears to have little knowledge of what the word “traitor” means. Considering that #NFL teams have employed multiple murderers, as well as countless domestic and child abusers and one convicted torturer of dogs, their hatred of Kaepernick says a lot about the gross moral bankruptcy of the NFL’s culture.
His fiancee made him do it!
The idea that the driving force of Kaepernick’s political stand has been his fiance, the radio personality known as Nessa, has been bandied about online with little to no evidence, as has the idea that Kaepernick -- who has been an outspoken Christian throughout his career and has Christian Bible verses tattooed throughout his body -- has converted to Islam. There’s nothing backing any of this, besides the need to add some misogyny and Islamophobia to the story.
What would Pat Tillman say?
Tillman, the NFL safety who gave up his career to join the Army Rangers and died in Afghanistan in 2004, was actually a committed political leftist who opposed the war in Iraq and planned to meet with Noam Chomsky. So I guess he probably would have been okay with it. #colinkaepernick