I’m calling BS.
I’m about as far from a staunch defender of the flag and our national symbols as anyone YOU know and I think Colin Kaepernick is an idiot. Not for not standing for the Flag. That’s his choice and I have no opinion about it, one way or another. What offends me is that I FIRMLY believe – at least in part – that this is a transparent ploy designed to give Kaepernick an out with the Forty-Niners (who refused several offers to trade him) and an easy, facile excuse for the FACT that he’s failed miserably and squandered what was a massive amount of talent and physical skill. It is a LOT easier on the ego (and that’s the only other “massive” thing about Kaepernick) to say, “They dumped/benched me because I had the guts to Speak Out!” than it is to say, “I lost focus, lost motivation, and blew my career.” It absolves him of the responsibility to admit that he pissed away one of the most promising careers in NFL history. People have said to me, in the past day, “This is SO not about football!”
If this were some anonymous guy, sitting in the stands and ignoring the Flag, nobody but a few people around him – people who don’t understand individual American rights – would be saying ANYTHING. It’s about football because it involves Colin Kaepernick whom, without football, would be of no interest to anyone but his family. And, because HE made it about football by shoving it into the middle of a football setting. If he didn’t want to stand for the flag and those feelings were his TRUE motivation, he could have just stayed in the locker room and come out later. Nobody would even have noticed and his conscience would be clear.
This…well, whatever it is that he’s saying, is done in such a questionable and silly way that it’s beneath the dignity of anyone who hopes to be considered thoughtful or intelligent. Standing for the Flag is a small gesture of respect for a LOT of things, many of which Kaepernick has already back-peddaled on, insisting, as all scoundrels and fools do, that he was “misunderstood“. He can make just as powerful a statement (which shouldn’t be hard, since this was kinda pathetic and desperate) by just writing a statement and posting it online or by showing up at an organized protest; in short…getting off his ass and DOING something.
I don’t question for a moment his right to do this. He has EVERY right to express himself any way he sees fit. But a LOT of people, these days, believe that free speech and freedom of expression issupposed to mean that you get to say and do things like this without criticism…which was NEVER the case. He’s free to sit for the anthem and I’m free to question his motives and think he’s an ignorant jackass – and to say so. I hear people, this morning, calling him “courageous” and it makes me want to toss my lunch.
To a GREAT extent, protests have any real impact or gravitas because of the stature of those protesting. When John Carlos and Tommy Smith raised their gloved fists during the anthem, I stood up and cheered. When Ali refused to be inducted into the military, I wept and then cheered. When the St. Louis Rams came out with hands raised, when LeBron James showed up to shoot-around in a shirt that said, “I Can’t Breathe!“, I was moved to tears. Those moments in our history still resonate because people of GREAT achievement and unimpeachable motives risked everything to say what needed to be said. Kaepernick’s HUGE level of self-involvement – the bicep-kissing and gangsta pose and ego-touting – coupled with his abject failure at his chosen profession, make him wildly vulnerable to criticism like I have of him now: that this is just another stunt that’s meant to get the brand “Colin Kaepernick” back out into the forefront of the collective consciousness. Some owner will now be called “courageous” if they bring him in as their QB. He’ll be discussed in serious tones, where just last week he was nearly forgotten by anyone who’s not a Niners fan – and many who are. THAT is what Kaepernick leaves himself open to by grabbing the spotlight like this. His “protest” is going to be tainted by the way he did it and by the simple fact of it being done by someone who’s at best questionable and, at worst, nakedly manipulative.
If Colin Kaepernick wanted to start a debate, he could have just sat down with Bob Costas and said, “I have serious reservations about this country and here’s why...” And then, he could have gotten off his sofa and joined up with like-minded individuals to make their collective beliefs have some real clout. He chose symbolism and didn’t have enough substance to give that symbol any real power.
AND, even more importantly, I submit that the notion that Kaepernick refuses to stand for the anthem because the song and flag disrespect the suffering of young men of color is no more rational than the criticism of Kaepernick that centers on his “disrespect for the military”(?) WHEN the HELL did the flag and the anthem become solely – or even mostly – about the military? That flag stands for ME…and YOU and the folks next door and our collective effort – stupid and ineffective though it may usually be – to better ourselves and this society. The flag is a symbol of the government that stands by while young black men are killed? YES. It’s a symbol of the military? YES. But neither of those is the totality of what the flag and that song mean. Respect for what those symbols mean is not a buffet line, where you get to hate on one thing and then claim to honor the rest. If you have problems with ANYTHING in this country, speak up, state your case, and DO SOMETHING REAL to change that thing. But do NOT sit your silly ass down and disrespect everything else those things stand for and then tell me it’s not about me! IT IS. And Colin Kaepernick can go screw himself. If I want to hear an alternative view of America, first, I can go right into the interior of my own head, where “alternative” is pretty much the only view of America I’ve had for the past fifty years, and then I can go find someone of intelligence and achievement, whose views are motivated by something other than his adrenal gland and the distinct possibility that he just wants to get noticed again.
This is still a free country, at least until Donald Trump becomes president. If you want to invest the attitudinal posings of a failed NFL quarterback with importance, knock yourself out.
I don’t. I’ll save my applause for someone whose actions and attitudes and simple credibility deserve that respect.