This Colin Kaepernick situation — or demonstration of civil dissent, if you will — has legs.
Even if Kaepernick doesn’t stand on his own legs when the national anthem is played before 49ers games, the point he is trying to make by sitting when all others stand — that police brutality and disregard for black lives must end — brings up not only that issue but also the concept of peaceful yet irreverent protest as a noble tool or sad pox upon our democracy.
Those who think the backup quarterback, who also has worn socks that feature pigs wearing police hats, should stand up and shut up are legion. They include military members, flag defenders, war veterans and, of course, a lot of police officers.
Former NFL safety Rodney Harrison went on a Houston radio station and blasted Kaepernick for not really being black because his birth mother is white.
‘‘I’ll tell you this,’’ Harrison said. ‘‘I’m a black man, and Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black.’’
Thus, yet another issue was brought up: In our country of mixed race, ethnicity and religion, when do you have enough authority — let’s call it ‘‘cred’’ — to speak for an oppressed minority? And who, while we’re at it, is black? Conversely, who is not?
We’ve got a president — a black president — whose mother is as white as Kaepernick’s. Does Barack Obama get to weigh in on this stand-or-sit matter? Or, per Harrison’s standards, is he outside the loop because he’s too pale?
Obama, who has been called everything from a Muslim to an African to a terrorist to a foreigner by his detractors, said Monday that Kaepernick’s boycotting of the national anthem is ‘‘messy’’ but part of ‘‘the way democracy works.’’
‘‘I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument,’’ Obama said, ‘‘than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all.’’
Funny wording, given that Kaepernick is sitting on the sideline to make his argument.
This is something that so offends columnist Bryan Fischer — who writes for The Stand, the official blog of the conservative American Family Association — that he claimed Kaepernick is ‘‘absolutely’’ breaking federal law by not standing for the anthem. According to the AFA’s interpretation of statutes, Kaepernick should be punished by being fined, thrown in jail or both.
Me? The first thing I thought when I heard about Kaepernick’s sit-down was: Really? This guy?
Kaepernick, who made his first national splash by demolishing the Bears in a ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ game, didn’t seem to be the type of player who would pick up a protest banner and run with it. I recalled him as being not overly verbal or particularly thought-provoking in interviews.
I also remembered him being investigated in Miami in the spring of 2014 for some kind of suspicious incident involving a woman he was with who, according to a police report, ‘‘says she woke up in a hospital bed but doesn’t know how she got there.’’
Nothing came of that, but Kaepernick just didn’t seem to be the kind of athlete who would follow in the Jim Brown/Muhammad Ali/Tommie Smith/John Carlos school of defiance.
Then again, neither did White Sox pitcher Chris Sale seem like the kind of player who nearly would lead a worker insurrection last spring over the team banning 14-year-old Drake LaRoche from hanging around the locker room every day. It’s fascinating to learn what a person holds dear, what he’ll go to the wall for.
I’ll grant Kaepernick his seriousness. And I’ll respect it. Enlightenment and the awareness that the world is more than just money, fame and hedonism can strike one at any time. From Buddha to Gandhi to Cesar Chavez, there always have been protesters and leaders who abruptly put away children’s things.
And to take a stand against the establishment and make that position painful for those in power — you think the NFL and 49ers like this stink? — means you’re out on the ledge, in danger, and you’ll need an exit strategy. For Kaepernick, the dilemma is this: When do I back away and just play football? When do black lives finally matter enough?
The NFL has no problem turning itself over to military displays and, for the month of October, rampant promotion of breast-cancer awareness. Should we be skeptical about these connections? Perhaps. The NFL isn’t a government agency. And critics have claimed other cancers suffer because of the focus on breast cancer.
History will be kind to Kaepernick, I suspect. Which makes me wonder when another athlete will pick up the baton and protest gun violence, gang murders, heroin deaths or climate-change denial.
There’s so much out there, you know.
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