Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Colin Kaepernick Can Play on My Team

Colin Kaepernick may or may not be a San Francisco 49er by the time you read this.  There's some talk that he's not going to make the opening game roster.

On one hand, his numbers just haven't been that great, and the 49ers have settled on a new starting quarterback in Blaine Gabbert.  Kaepernick is expensive, and football folks are wondering if he has lost his ability to play after injuries have mounted.  It's a stunning fall for Kap who once upon a time started in a Super Bowl.  For that matter, It's also been a stunning fall for the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has fallen fast from the NFL elites.

Putting all of that aside, I'm sure that you might have heard about Colin Kaepernick's protest by now as it has been the talk of everything from the morning talk shows to evening news to sports radio.  It's one of those rare moments where a sports story has hit the mainstream.

As I'm sure you've heard, the quarterback refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner and the display of the American Flag prior to the 49ers-Packers preseason game in Santa Clara last week.

It was something that we have not seen in professional sports since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf decided to take a stand in the early 1990's.  Like Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf cited the long history of the oppression of minorities by the United States as a justification for his action.  Unlike Kaepernick, the NBA stood against Abdul-Rauf and suspended him for a game.

Colin Kaepernick
Photo from the NFL
When he returned, Abdul-Rauf would stand for the National Anthem, but he would silently pray with his eyes closed.  Back then, I supported the NBA's action.  I was wrong.  I apologize to Abdul-Rauf.

Why was I wrong?

When you read the founding documents of this country, there's nothing in them that forces anyone to stand for a song or support a piece of cloth.  On the contrary, there's a whole amendment in the Bill of Rights that supports someone's right to, without the government's intervention, to stand or sit in protest.

Despite what you think about Kaepernick or Abdul-Rauf, they were both well within their rights to protest a cause that they firmly believe enough in to take the kind of hate they were about to receive.  Abdul-Rauf's home in Gulfport, Mississippi was burned to the ground after threats were made in 2001.  A quick search on Twitter of Kaepernick's name proves the very thing he's protesting.  As Motormouth Maybelle says in Hairspray, "brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid."

I find myself in the middle.

I believe that black lives matter, but I also believe in this imperfect thing we call our country.  I make the choice to stand and honor the flag and my country when I hear the Star Spangled Banner.  I make the choice to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Those are my First Amendment choices, and they are no better than yours or Colin Kaepernick's or Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's in the eyes of our Constitution.  I can agree with Kaepernick's cause but disagree with his methods and still defend his right to protest,  As WTHR's Bob Kravitz wrote in his column on this issue, "I don't agree with Kaepernick, but I can certainly understand his point of view to the extent it's possible for any white person to understand."

At the end of the day, who knows what's going to happen to Kaepernick's career.  If he does get released, I think you can predict that no team will go near him.  They'll justify it in football terms, and they will be right.  In a greater sense, the NFL doesn't like controversy.  That will be the REAL reason no one will really take a flier on Colin.

The irony of all of this is that the NFL has developed a real problem with minority ownership and minority team management in the league. After a promising few years where the Rooney Rule seemed to work, the NFL is slipping back in 2016.

For his part, even with all the backlash against him, Kaepernick has shown no desire to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this issue, and I respect him for that.  He knows this could cost him his career, and he's ready to go down with this fight.  In this day and age when we can barely get sports figures to say it gets dark at night, it's refreshing to see someone have the character to put it all on the line for what he believes in.

For that reason, regardless of whether or not I agree with his methods, Colin Kaepernick can play on my team any day.

1 comment:

Phil Hinkle said...

Well said Jon. There was a time I got upset with people who did not show respect for the flag. Then it dawned on me one day that, I served my country for them to have the right to be "a" holes. I got over being mad and honor my country, imperfect as it is,and our flag and let others do as they will. That's what makes America.