Apparently San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick will not be standing for the national anthem anytime soon. “When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
There are a lot of ways a professional athlete can speak his mind or protest. Most obviously, a starting quarterback in the National Football League has constant access to the media, with reporters who hanging on their every word. Kaepernick did exactly that today:
“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality,” said Kaepernick, who is biracial and whose adoptive parents are white. “There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”
If he had just said that, few fans would be angry with him. But Kaepernick’s gesture, refusing to stand for the national anthem, is not subtle, nuanced or conditional. By not standing, the quarterback is not saying I’m angry at that cop, or that police force, or that prosecutor’s decision. He’s saying, I’m angry at all of America. Make no mistake, Kaepernick indicts all of America over what troubles him.
Kaepernick seems to be misinterpreting what everyone else is doing when they stand for the national anthem. Does he think everyone else stands because they think America is perfect? Does he think holding his hand over his heart represents a de facto approval of police brutality? Does he think all of his teammates and coaches and everyone else standing chooses to turn a blind eye to these problems?
Colin Kaepernick is just about the worst possible person to run around indicting America for its failures. Put aside the fact that an opposing player accused Kaepernick of using the N-word while during a heated exchange in a game in 2014. We can put aside the eye-popping specifics of his contract — $114 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, including a $12 million signing bonus, $61 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $19 million.
If you are gifted athletically in the United States of America in the twenty-first century, you have a good chance to live a life more blessed than 99 percent or so of your fellow citizens, never mind the rest of the world. Partial or full college scholarships, lucrative contracts, even more lucrative endorsement deals, fame, groupies, post-playing media gigs. Yes, professional athletes live in the spotlight and must live with press scrutiny, but they have been quite a few cases where professional athletes received lenient or favorable treatment from law enforcement and the judicial system. Yes, professional athletes get booed, but if they succeed, they will hear tens of thousands of people cheering and chanting their name. There are successful doctors and teachers and inventors who will never hear that.
America has been really generous to Colin Kaepernick, and he makes a particularly insufferable figure to offer a blanket condemnation of the country.