Not being a fan of American Football in any form, I wasn’t aware of Colin Kaepernick until some of his recent actions – or indeed a lack of them – landed him in more than a little hot water.
Kaepernick – a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers – plunged himself into the nightmare of North American social politics by refusing to stand in acknowledgement of the US national anthem before a pre-season friendly against the Green Bay Packers on August 26th.
Speaking to the NFL’s official website after the game – surprisingly addressing the issue head on – Kaepernick said: “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.”
It was actually the second time Kaepernick had refused to stand for the anthem in pre-season, but it was this repeat that opened yet another Pandora’s Box of racism, bad feeling and general shit across the press, social media and the streets.
Predictably, Kaepernick’s sit-down protest – his reaction to his perception of the treatment of black people by the law and other authorities in the United States – drew the kind of barbs and ire that actually serve to justify Kaepernick’s complaints.
This outsider’s perception of a part of the USA’s populace is that those who gabble on the most about protection of the Constitution tend to be the ones most likely to want to override it when it suits them.
You don’t need to be the guy from National Treasure – or even North American – to know and understand that the First Amendment of the Constitution literally offers people freedom of speech, thought and opinion. To wit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.
Apologies for United States 101, but it bears repeating because a large number of people don’t seem to understand the very thing they are using to push their own (racist, let’s be honest) agenda. For Kaepernick to protest against the treatment of black people and other ethnic groups by authorities, only to be told in some quarters to sit down because this isn’t his place, is a truly astounding example of cognitive dissonance and should be frozen in time for following generations to study, if only to glimpse the raw, unsullied deposit of human ignorance that resides within.
…and now…oh, and now…we have gone from helter to skelter. According to Bleacher Report – and others – police in San Francisco are planning to rescind their presence at 49ers’ games after a photo of Kaepernick wearing socks depicting policemen as pigs during a training session. In an ill-advised bout of I Don’t Think I’ll Bother Researching This At All, Mic writer Philip Lewis tweeted out the picture in question, garnering over 23,000 retweets.
The picture was actually from August 10th of this year, but it only served to increase the hatred Kaepernick was receiving but the damage was done and police threatened to remove their officers for future games.
Far be it from me to place the burden of guilt upon someone or something, but the actions of the police – that is to say their weird, childish, take-the-ball-home-and-nobody-plays response – is a frightening one. Kaepernick’s sit-down protest and subsequent comments indirectly touched upon the stubborn refusal of police forces across the US to accept others, to change, to look within themselves. The force’s reaction to the slightest of insults – a cartoon pig on a pair of socks – is to withdraw their support and endanger the lives of other members of the public by refusing to provide a presence for games. Careful guys, you might actually prove his point after all.
Without realising it, those that Kaepernick has targeted by virtue of his protests have reacted in exactly the same way that prompted this course of action in the first place. In a sport rife with very public and atrocious cases of rape, domestic violence, drug abuse and even organised animal fighting rackets, it boggles the mind that a man who is trying to bring some semblance of political debate to the game from his position and seeks to instil virtues that none of the other unsavoury incidents provide is the one who is abused and insulted and treated as The Other.
To Colin Kaepernick: Stay seated. The act of doing nothing appears to be the one that provokes the most telling reactions.