Let me first apologize for going on hiatus without prior notice. Much has happened in the world of politics, entertainment, sports, international relations, social media and so on.
Just today, in fact, investigators solved the stabbing murder of two nuns in Mississippi. My girlfriend referred to it as “a murder like nun other.”
While that joke may be in poor taste, it’s also not a joke.
I’m not back to talk about that, though.
Aside from strange crime, the Summer Olympics and Donald Trump’s inability to say the right thing ever, I’m back to talk about something else.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the National Anthem preceding a game against the Green Bay Packers.
Oh, and I guess we’re supposed to be mad or happy or disappointed or have some other emotional response the actions of a man who throws spirals for money and does this thing with coworkers:
I won’t tell anyone how to feel about it. But here are 7 (because that’s Kaepernick’s jersey number, and because people tend to like that number) reasons why it matters.
1. 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.”
This is a point Kaepernick would certainly not be the first to make, but his making it from a platform such as an NFL game is significant. We rarely see that. It would simply be incorrect to assert that people of color are not oppressed in the United States. I suppose that it’s the blaming of the country herself rather than the people doing the oppressing is what’s thrown up for debate.
2. He then said, “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.”
Graduation-to-retirement NFL years’ worth of hard tackles couldn’t rattle anyone’s brain enough for them to not realize that he’s talking about police. Regardless of whether we’re comfortable with the police brutality conversation, it’s important. I prefer NCAA football to NFL football, and I never actually cared what someone like Colin Kaepernick ever did. This is still important, though, because many people do care.
3. Kaepernick may not be in the game as much now as he was a few years ago, but the dude is f—ing loaded.
Though most of us do not know the quarterback personally, it is safe to say he does not endure the same oppression that other marginalized groups and individuals in America do daily. In his own words, though, it would be “selfish on [his] part to look the other way.”
“Selfish” was interesting. Would it be selfish to just stand up during the national anthem? There are other means of protest, are there not? What if he stood during the song, but then later on marched with some protesters?
Or would it be, according to those who oppose his actions, “selfish” to refuse? Would it be selfish to sit down while everyone else is “respecting” those who fought for our “rights?” (Yes. I still use quotes when I type “rights.”)
It doesn’t sound like a fitting word anywhere in this situation to me.
But anyway, he’s rich. He has made a name for himself. He’s a star athlete in a country that LOVES star athletes ridiculously too much. Does that make his statement any more powerful? Honestly, yes. It does.
4. It’s the National Anthem. People really care about that. It’s a celebration of the country that not only provides for us the right to participate (or not) in the anthem, but provided Kaepernick the opportunity to become what he is. For these reasons, some folks describe his actions as disrespectful.
What constitutes “disrespect,” though? You don’t HAVE to stand during the national anthem, or even the pledge of allegiance. But it is indeed a sort of social contract we all subconsciously signed, so it catches us off-guard to see someone breach it.
That matters. We’re fairly quick to say someone like Kaepernick “hates” America, when it’s most likely not the case. The most true thing about it is really just that we were caught off-guard. He didn’t do the thing we thought everyone would do, so it’s upsetting.
“Disrespectful” is just a weak argument, though. It’s essentially meaningless. It does not bring about change to anything. You might get a like or two on a Facebook post for saying it, but Kaepernick plays a game for a living. He can “disrespect” his own mother and it wouldn’t impact anything. But again, because an enormous amount of people care about this anthem that is played before a game invented by the country for which it was written, this matters. A lot.
5. According to ESPN, Kaepernick (raised by white people, by the way) has spoken out on social media in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. His position as such a high-profile athlete gives such causes a bigger presence, and starts a public conversation that must be had for the sake of “justice for all.”
He also retweeted this today:
What it really boils down to is that we simply do not see this every day from a person such as an NFL quarterback. It makes the game more interesting, if anything. Giving people something to think critically about is the good part, to me. This matters at least a little.
6. Kaepernick is perhaps not the most famous or the best player in the league, but is he relevant enough to have started a wave? What if more athletes choose to protest in the same fashion? Would backlash get worse? Would Americans actually stop watching NFL games? Would real social change happen? Will protesting, the national anthem, or both somehow lose meaning? Will the terrorists win? Will the bloggers just stop already?
7. This has been one of many examples of athletes doing something that has nothing to do with their specific jobs and getting in social hot water for it. More people than I thought have time to be angry at a buff man who bumps helmets with his coworkers for fun.
Sports are a big deal in this country, as are civil liberties and the sharing and discussing of taboo ideas.
(Still–don’t expect me to react all that passionately to a guy sitting down while someone drags out the national anthem just to show off their own voice.)
Perhaps a more nihilistic approach would be fun, too.
None of this matters because nothing at all matters.
Dust in the wind, all of us.
But seriously, enjoy the game. Be proud of whatever you’re proud of.
Kaepernick sees things from a point of view that he could easily get away with ignoring. That’s something.
We’re all human.