This has been a hard thing to watch. Until I moved from my little valley town in California, located ninety miles from San Francisco, and became a card carrying, web-footed, Vitamin D deficient Pacific Northwesterner, my entire indoctrination into and passion for football was summed up in a word: 49ers. My family never missed a game broadcast on television, nor failed to love and support our team even when they were not very loveable, nor supportable. Didn’t matter. They were our team.
Over the years, I changed allegiance to the Seattle Seahawks, and have been a 12, loud and proud, since they became a team in 1976. However, there is a part of me that still loves my childhood team, and follows them, carefully. Through the good times and bad, I have loved not only them, but the family history and memories tied so closely to these autumn warriors.
Now, I’m saddened and emotionally benched over the attention that has been drawn to the 49ers, thanks to Colin Kaepernick. The words and intent of his protest are laudable. No doubt about it. Mr 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.”
And his right to protest? I believe with my entire being that it is his Constitutional right to peacefully protest what he perceives as wrongdoing in this country. I fervently wish there were more citizens who saw the wrongs, the mishandling of our police forces, the inequities from border to border; citizens who would link arm in arm, and move as a mighty wave across the land, peacefully compelling all of America to be determined, and extinguish once and for all the painful brutality that is descrimination and racism.
My problem comes with how disingenuous kneeling during our national anthem seems. It supposedly was to ignite dialogue about the race issues we all have witnessed. I have read and heard a lot of dialogue, and it was all regarding Mr Kaepernick, his right to protest as a member of an NFL team and as an American citizen. Nothing about race issues, nor how they can be resolved.
Even today, I paid close attention to a discussion about Mr Kaepernick. And it was about his hair. His hair! It is taking on the appearance of hair seen in the protest days of the 60s and 70s, but what does that matter? It’s hair!
What does matter to me is the facade. I know of Mr Kaepernick’s very privileged upbringing. He was raised in an even smaller town than mine, about nine miles from where I grew up. Now he wears police/pig socks, kneels during our national anthem, turns a cold shoulder to our flag, and is beginning to use inner city dialect in his speech. That word, disingenuous, keeps popping into my mind, over and over.
I have said I do believe in protest. I believe in exercising our Constitutional rights whenever, wherever, and however we can to push that juggernaut of societal change forward. Peacefully. Effectively.
During years of working inside and outside of the system, I found genuine protest is more believable, and requires a lot more guts, if there is risk involved. It is a matter of return on an investment. My friend from the days of our civil rights protests in the 60s used to say, “No guts, no glory!” If one is not investing anything, nor risking anything, there really isn’t much to lose.
So, what has Mr Kaepernick to lose in all his kneeling during the National Anthem? If we read the analyses of reactions to his behavior, and potential outcomes, it’s questionable whether he will be particularly impacted one way or another.
Personally, I, for one, would take him more seriously if he took just his $11.9 million 2016 guaranteed salary, alone, and distributed it to inner city redevelopment, or bought shoes, coats, backpacks, school supplies, or sports equipment for schools located in distressed neighborhoods. Any real investment, that produced tangible results, would work for me on the believability scale of Mr Kaepernick’s intentions.
And one more thought that causes me such disappointment: So he takes a knee during the national anthem? I stand alone in my living room, hand on heart whenever I hear it, and can’t stop the tears. It means that much to me.
Perhaps, it ultimately and finally does comes down to our investment. How much of the life and heart of your family history that has been poured into this country is something that really does matter to so many of us Americans. Lackluster, overpaid, ungrateful sports figures will be forgotten soon enough. And the graves of our loved ones, found in National Cemeteries and others all across the nation, will be here long after Mr Flash In The Pan has been forgotten.