It's taken me a few days to soak in all the arguments and comments and diatribes from everyone who's had an opinion in this story. To sum it all up, during his team's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand up and salute the American flag during the playing/singing of our national anthem. This would cause a lot of eyes to open and heads to be scratched.
If you haven't heard/read about it already, here was Kaepernick's reasoning for not standing up for the anthem:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "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." (NFL.com)
We do have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights in this country that allows us, as U.S. citizens, to exercise such rights including the freedom of speech. I respect Colin Kaepernick as a U.S. citizen to say why he won't stand for the anthem and to salute the flag.
I also exercise my right as a U.S. citizen to criticize him and point out things with which I don't agree in regards to his refusal to honor our country. It's a two-way street. However, I think there's something lost in translation during this firestorm of criticism and scathing onslaughts against a guy who exercises his First Amendment right.
Let's look at this from an objective point of view: he's speaking on a platform that, perhaps, many others don't have such a voice. Does he have a relatively reasonable perspective as to the shortcomings of our nation as a whole? It's certainly feasible. However, our nation is a great country in a multi-faceted way. We have the strongest military in the world. We have some of the best police forces and firefighters that protect us on a daily basis.
Not to discredit/contradict what I just said, Kaepernick, and like I've said in previous entries, believes there is a disproportionate handling of black men, women and children in how it relates to the population demographics.
For example, The Washington Post sources show 732 white people + 381 black people + 382 (people of non black or white races killed by police) = 1495 police killings in total between January 1, 2015, and July 11, 2016. Three hundred eighty-one out of 1495 equals 25 percent of police killings were black people. Black people are twelve percent of the population. White people, by comparison, represent 49% of police killings and 62% of the population.
If these numbers are true, then Kaepernick has quite the leg to stand on. Police brutality certainly has been quite the topic of discussion over the past 4-5 years, and it was starting to catch on, long after Rodney King in Los Angeles, with the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida by the hands of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch safety patrol guy, or whatever you want to call him.
On the flip side, why is there not more outrage and vitriol over the black men and women that were shot, for example, in Chicago most recently? There's little-to-no coverage or reaction to the black-on-black crime, or even more revolting, black-on-white crime. Why is it that the select few that are raising hell over those lives that were lost or wounded if it's a black person being attacked by a white man/woman?
If we, and I don't mean we and all of us who know and use the term often, know the term "double standard," then we should be more apt to cover the whole story rather than just one chapter and run with it.
Don't you also find it interesting, in this day and age where many liberals and Democrats, and even some libertarians/independents, claim that "white privilege" is some sort of epidemic? If that's true, then isn't Kaepernick carrying out his own "white privilege" even though he's a black man? It speaks to the hypocrisy of the term itself, in my eyes.
Here's an additional nugget that really grinds my gears... Apparently a number of executives and higher-ups in the National Football League are likening Colin Kaepernick to a "traitor" and equating - EQUATING - the hate of him as much as people hate Rae Carruth. For those of you who need a crash course, Carruth was a former NFL player who fatally shot his 8-months-pregnant girlfriend. He was convicted on counts of conspiracy to murder.
You cannot, absolutely and unequivocally, compare a flat-out murderer to a guy who just doesn't want to stand during a song, regardless how you feel about the anthem and what it means to you. Adding to that, how is it that nobody is talking about the Baylor football player who was suspended for only THREE games for viciously and savagely beating his dog with a belt. The guy was charged with a misdemeanor. It's all about targeting our frustrations while not engaging in double standards.
Getting back to the argument at hand, Kaepernick says he feels oppressed with others dying on the streets with little-to-no hope in their lives and these people in the streets are just fighting to stay alive. Perhaps Kaepernick should turn in his jersey and $114 million contract and enroll in a police academy to earn a normal living wage to experience what it's like to be a cop.
How about a different route? He could donate a large portion of his contract and/or signing bonus to organizations that are helping make the country a better place, as well as police forces to perhaps implement better training programs in dealing with normal citizens on the streets?
I'm not wishing Kaepernick loses his job and you shouldn't either. If we spoke up about the national anthem at our normal jobs, would it result in detrimental behavior and/or lead to discipline from your bosses? It might, but it shouldn't cost anyone their job/livelihood.
I also understand, on the contrary, that every single case of encountering black, white, brown, yellow, etc., people on the streets is different and it's on a case-by-case basis. You also have the mere few seconds to react in real-time and make life-changing decisions to either reprimand, shoot, or carry out whatever other action you need to do to get the job done.
Do police officers make mistakes? Absolutely. Nobody is perfect. Nobody should ever hope for a perfect world, because it's never going to happen. Can judgments improve? Sure, but it goes both ways. When a guy like Colin Kaepernick says police brutality is a terrible thing and needs to change and/or be eradicated, I agree with him, despite how much I disagree with his choice to stand up for the national anthem.
Now, let's also look at a different angle. Many conservatives are claiming that Kaepernick has completely lost sight of those who have fought diligently, proudly and honorably for our country, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice are (figuratively) having their grave spit on by Kaepernick. It's fair but not a completely sound argument. He made no mention of the military in his comments.
I'm not saying I side with Kaepernick, but those who are threatening to kick Kaepernick out of the country are also creating an even bigger problem in the process. Look, those of us who were raised in this great country called the United States of America.
I'm sure he understands how important the military is to our country, but I feel it's unfair to demand that he lose his job, get deported, or be degraded to something less than human just for saying his peace. How many jobs and corporations/private businesses require, in their job descriptions and employee handbooks, their employees to stand at attention with their right hand over their heart and cite the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem? You'd be surprised to find very few, if at all.
Notice I didn't choose public sector jobs because if it involves government or local office, you might be required to do so, but your job is likely not on the line if you don't stand for the national anthem. All in all, it's ridiculous to think that the NFL should abide by such an imaginary rule. Aside from a "freedom of religion," I'm okay with the San Francisco 49ers stating their view in relation to Kaepernick's comments.
One other aspect that cannot be ignored is the comparison of these comments from Kaepernick and how the world, let alone the United States, completely revered champion boxer Muhammad Ali. I'll defend to this day that I thought he was a great boxer, a legendary rapper (before rap was ever considered a genre of music), and a great dignitary for the Olympics as well as one who's helped spearhead efforts to find a cure for Parkinson's disease before he lost his own battle.
Ali was a man who converted to Islam as a young adult during the prime of his boxing career. Cassius Clay felt that his given name was his "slave name," and wanted nothing to do with that, but in converting to Islam, he protested against a number of things attributed to the United States. It's ironic, because he felt Islam was a religion of peace, freedom, justice and equality. This is the same guy who refused to enter the draft for the Vietnam War. He faced jail time, even though the war, in hindsight, was ridiculous to enter in the beginning.
I will defend how much I love Ali as a fighter in the ring and as a champ of his respective sport, but how can we, as a sports world, support and look up to an idol, an icon, a legend of Ali's stature and look the other way regarding his transgressions about the United States of America, and yet we want to crucify and excoriate Colin Kaepernick simply for not standing for the national anthem? He's not desecrating the American flag or the great values it provides. He's merely pointing out an aspect with which he doesn't agree and wants to see change.
Granted, the United States has had its darkest days of slavery and racism behind us for a few decades. I don't see the days of hosing black men, women and children with 50 gallons of water per second, or sending the hounds after them, or whipping them (literally) into submission, (God forbid) lynching and anything else that extreme coming back into the fold.
Let's also look at another wrinkle that's made itself known throughout the social media webs: the military supporting and opposing Kaepernick's comments. I totally understand where the military has been vehement in stating their allegiance with the United States of America and choosing to oppose Kaepernick. I'm a very proud supporter of our military that defends the great rights and freedoms we have here and help make us an incredible land of opportunity for those who wish to (legally) emigrate here.
However, the latest and probably most effective hashtag to take social media by storm is #VeteransForKaepernick. This makes me put this whole controversy into the clearest of perspectives. Numerous military members have voiced their support for Kaepernick, including a few stellar examples:
Those are just a few examples, and if you don't believe me, you can look up these blurbs on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and use the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick. They are not the be-all-and-end-all of support for Kaepernick. It doesn't just come from black men and women who served in the military. Plenty of white, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian members of the United States military have been very vocal about what they do for us. So, why do we have such a "war of words" with each other when both sides of the argument are completely valid?
This brings me to my central point: this year's election has unearthed levels of hatred, spite, disgust and many other negative attributes inside all of us regarding numerous aspects of our nation. Whether you side with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Harambe the Gorilla, or anyone else to lead our country, that is completely irrelevant at the moment, because we need to get ourselves out of the proverbial gutter and focus on what's most important: ourselves.
We want to spew this hate because someone doesn't agree with the tenets and creeds with which we lead our own lives. That's not American at all. We want humans to lose their livelihoods just because they have a different opinion of the world than us. That's not American at all. We praise those who have created this great country of ours and yet we are diverting from the roots and foundations upon which this country was based. That's not American at all.
I was listening to a prominent sports talk radio host the other day and he summed this whole controversy up with such concision. He said something to the effect of, "if Colin Kaepernick wants to sit during the national anthem, I'm okay with that. I don't agree with how he went about it. I liken it to how the news is delivered to me. I am an information guy. Why should I only have to watch a news network that only aligns with my beliefs? Why can't I agree with multiple sides?"
Seriously... please ask yourself this question. Don't do it out loud. Just ask yourself. Close your eyes and wonder why we are prohibited from having multiple points of view on the world's issues today? Is it the overwhelming number of people who've taken an interest in helping change this country are felt the need to be either involved and extreme to one side or the other, or they're staying away from being involved at all? It may seem like a convoluted question, but it bears repeating.
This "faux-troversy" does not lie with Kaepernick. This does not involve the National Football League. This has nothing to do with what the military does on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. This has nothing to do with our employers' and their rules for code of conduct. This has nothing to do with deporting who we want and when we want. This has nothing to do with police brutality.
This has everything to do with quick judgments, blind racism, and finding who we are as Americans and human beings as a whole. Whether you're going to the grocery store, going out of a run, heading to the beach or doing whatever it is you do, we all pre-judge people on a daily basis. If you think you don't, then you're lying to yourself. We all have reservations about a number of people. That speaks to an unbelievable problem that not one single person except yourself can fix.
I'm not suggesting that we are able to live in a beautiful utopia where there are no problems and everything is hunky-dory. I'm also not suggesting that we should live in an Orwellian dystopia where everyone thinks like a robot and every single task is carried out with such precision, as in communist/dictatorial countries like China and North Korea.
Will we completely eradicate all racism? No. Will we completely get rid of all prejudice? No. That would be utterly impossible and asinine to even attempt. What we can do is look within ourselves, make change from within and be the best person we want ourselves to be. Let's be the best "parents" we can be and teach our children the right path in which to walk.
As we say in the radio and television industry, the adage often uttered is something along the lines of, "you're only as good as your last show." If that rings true for anyone and everyone both in radio/television, but also in the military, technology, retail, and other career fields, then we should set examples of what to do as well as what not to do. This way we lead by example and we don't have to revert to the cop-out "Do as I say, not as I do" model.
Be the best version of you, and don't worry about what you cannot control, especially in this great country that we should respect when it comes to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.