Colin Kaepernick Will Not ‘Behave’ And That’s A Damn Good Thing

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers will not stand during the playing of the national anthem at NFL games. As he put it, after refusing to stand during the 49ers against the Packers this past weekend:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color….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.

And he is prepared for the consequences, for after all, his employer, NFL fans and sponsors, and the media could, and almost certainly will, turn on him:

I have to stand up for people that are oppressed….If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.

There are several interesting aspects to Kaepernick’s stance. First, and perhaps most importantly, there is no ambiguity about his stance. This is not a call to ‘come together,’ to ‘heal,’ to ‘forget and forgive’; this is not a bromide or a platitude to split the difference and maintain a quiescent state of affairs. This is a combative gesture of protest, one designed to be provocative, aimed against a symbol that is all too quickly used as protective cover by insecure patriots. They will soon issue the usual furious canards about how Kaepernick has ‘insulted’ those ‘who have died for the country defending our freedoms.’ Second, in so doing, Kaepernick is not merely taking aim at the police; he is indicting a much larger set of institutions, cultures, and practices. Indeed, by rejecting a classical gesture of respect for a national symbol, Kaepernick is rejecting the claims of the nation upon him, one to whom he feels his allegiance should not be directed as long as it does not fulfill its end of the citizenship bargain.

Athletes taking a political stance are not unknown. Some professional athletes have to be pressured or shamed into doing so; they speak up quickly and retreat, worried that their livelihood as will be jeopardized. The First Amendment will not protect them against their private employers. Others–like Mohammad Ali or Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Olympics–made more explicit gestures of protest and paid the price. In the American context, because so many athletes are African-American, they can expect that the responses to their political statements will be infected by a racism and anger and contempt that they know is never too far from the surface of their most dedicated fans. They know they are expected to be ‘good blacks’: do your act, entertain us, and when you are done, leave the stage quietly; do not stick around to torment our conscience or force introspection upon us; we like our athletes compliant and docile; do not remind us of where you came from and what you might identify with; indeed, you have no other identity than that given to you by your contract and your employer.

Colin Kaepernick has just refused compliance with these orders. He deserves our respect and admiration and support.

16 thoughts on “Colin Kaepernick Will Not ‘Behave’ And That’s A Damn Good Thing

  1. Most of the bodies in the street did not get there at the hands of the police, so if he is referring to all the bodies, and all the murderers, then he has my respect and admiration

    1. The ones killed by the police were killed by law-enforcement officers; the others were killed by criminals. The latter are tackled by our laws; the former are not being so handled.

  2. The latter are ignored, they don’t make for good press, but my point is that they are both colossal scandals, perhaps of similar magnitude.

  3. When I first came across the news of Kaepernick’s protest, I was very happy even as I had not seen his locker room presser where he explained his action. I was very happy that his right to not stand during national anthem is a right conferred on him by the virtue of his being an American, and what better way to proudly display to the wider world that this democracy still works than for him – and others – to feel right in protesting the symbols of the nation?

    It reminded me of Toni Smith in 2003 when she during the pre-game national anthem before a college basketball game, turned her back on the American flag as she protested America’s decision to invade Iraq.

    Protest is the fundamental bedrock of American democratic experiment. Without protest, we as citizens – and law makers – are not pushed to think beyond our own little definitions and narrow interpretations. With every protest that makes the majority froth at the mouth about nationalism and patriotism, and the eventual discourse that follows, the union becomes a bit more perfect. And that’s a terrific thing.

  4. At the end of the day, nobody ever heard about Kaepernick before this story, I would venture to guess that even many football fans never heard his name. I really don’t give a rat’s behind what he thinks about America, the flag, or any other thing. I suppose the conversation is worthwhile, but he’s just a mewling little bitch who needs to work on his throwing skills.

    1. But now they have, and that’s all that matters. (He’s played in a Super Bowl, by the way, so I don’t think your assessment of his fame is correct.) Also: if you don’t care what he thinks about the flag, then why does his stance bother you? The abuse seems to suggest he’s touched a nerve with you – and with many others. Which is what he wanted.

  5. He doesn’t like when certain people get shat on. I don’t like when the country I love gets shat on.
    That’s the nerve he’s touched. I know, my stance is not “progressive”. Too bad

    1. The country you love got to be lovable because it has the Bill of Rights, which allows Kaepernick to express his point of view. And it is your right to criticize him for doing so (and mine to praise him.) This is how a republic is supposed to work. We’re just seeing it in action.

  6. I agree. The man is a absolutely within his rights. I just think he’s a douche. BTW, I just read on a right wing website that he used the N word against a Chicago Bears player in 2014, based on a report in the Chicago Tribune

    1. It’s entirely possible K is a douche in real life; I’m more concerned about his political stance, which is entirely non-violent and only seeks to bring a real injustice to people’s attention. Moreover, people can change; I’m sure you can remember stupid shit you did just last week.

  7. The stupid shit I did last week and for the past few weeks, for that matter is only hitting the gym 1 day,out of sheer laziness and summer sloth. Not good to mess with the best thing in my life.

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