The Corner

Politics & Policy

Colin Kaepernick’s Great Service to America

The Colin Kaepernick story keeps getting more absurd. Check out the socks he wore to practice:

Nope, your eyes do not deceive you. Those are in fact cop-pig socks, but — trust him — he’s not condemning all police officers. On Instagram he noted that he has friends and relatives in blue. Sure, if I saw a football player depicting, say, soldiers as bloodthirsty killers, I’d totally interpret that as honoring good soldiers and rejecting only the “rogue” elements.

But I must confess, at this point I’ve come full-circle. I used to oppose Kaepernick’s actions (while agreeing that the NFL shouldn’t discipline him), now I’m cheering him on. You do you, Colin. Here’s why:

First, he’s completely exposing the utter hypocrisy of the corporate sports industry. I seem to recall ESPN firing Curt Schilling not long ago for taking some rather conventional positions regarding the problem of Islamic extremism (yes, a minority of extremists can create big problems) and for sharing an “offensive” meme taking on the idea that men should be allowed in women’s restrooms. And it feels like it was only three weeks ago that the NFL wasn’t permitting the Dallas Cowboys to wear helmet decals supporting Dallas police after one of the worst police massacres in American history.

And now? Everyone is rushing to assure America that Kaepernick won’t be punished, and there are ESPN analysts falling all over themselves to praise him. I was on the radio with an ESPN writer just today who made the point that protest should make us feel uncomfortable. Did you hear that Christian pro athletes? Your views on social change are totally welcome now. No reprisals for you!

Second, he’s discrediting a dangerous cause. One of the challenges of dealing with Black Lives Matter is that the media has done a very good job concealing an extraordinarily radical and destructive movement behind a veneer of manufactured moderation and respectability. There is a lot that’s hateful, vicious, and incoherent about BLM, and now that Kaepernick is bringing his disrespect and insults to the national stage, it’s harder to ignore the radicalism. He’s showing a face of the movement — disrespecting the flag, mocking cops — that’s mainstream within, say, academe but decidedly outside the bounds of most Americans’ views of appropriate discourse. Manners still matter to millions, and this form of disrespect is appropriately resented.

I love free speech, and I hate the corporate culture that is increasingly stifling individual expression in favor of advancing approved boardroom messages. Kaepernick is in fact demonstrating one of the great virtues of the marketplace of ideas — sometimes bad movements refute themselves.


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