In 1968, Mohammad Ali said “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong“; he had declared himself a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam (excuse me, “conflict”). His passport was seized, He spent the next four years blacklisted from boxing; doing speaking tours. He was denounced and despised by other sports stars, politicians, the general public at large. He was called “unpatriotic” among other things.
Martin Luther King Jr. said of Ali, “He is giving up his fame, he is giving up millions of dollars in order to stand for what his conscience tells him is right. No matter what you think of his religion, you have to admire his courage.” Ali said of himself: “There are only two kinds of men, those who compromise and those who take a stand.”
In 2005 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest ranked medal that can be given to a civilian, by President George W. Bush. President Bush said of Ali: “The American people are proud to call Muhammad Ali one of our own.” He was an inspiration to an entire generation, and a role model to the generations that followed.
And now an African-American football player is taking a stand (or rather, a knee), not against a war, but against “police brutality, and racial injustice“. Let me be blunt here, he was protesting a militarized police force that had been caught a few too many times murdering civilians, mostly African-American, but not exclusively African-American. Some were other races, some were White.
No, Colin Kaepernick is not Muhammad Ali; but he doesn’t have to be. He is still a star athlete, still a public figure, still a celebrity, still a community leader. He has something in common with Ali that is far more important than race. He has the same kind of mettle; the same kind of courage. Like Ali, Kaepernick is standing up for his beliefs. Unlike Ali, Kaepernick hasn’t done anything requiring a court trial.
Colin Kaepernick was quietly, silently, protesting the KILLING of unarmed civilians during police ARRESTS. These were not people found guilty of crimes, not people who were sentenced for crimes. Police have arrest powers, not judge, jury, and executioner powers. There is no better reason that I could think of to exercise one’s right to expression and protest. Yet this is not what the controversy is all about; no.
- Kaepernick is not leading a march or a sit-down demonstration in the middle of a busy downtown street at rush hour.
- Kaepernick is not leading a march or a sit-down demonstration in the middle of an interstate highway risking the lives of protesters or vehicular traffic alike.
- Kaepernick is not taking the American flag, tossing it on the ground, standing on it, or lighting it on fire.
The Star-Spangled Banner is not a flag; it’s a song. It can’t be desecrated except perhaps by having American citizens throwing huge hissy fits over someone politely expressing a desire to stop seeing the police shoot his fellow American citizens to death. Oh excuse me, politely expressing a desire to stop seeing the police shoot his fellow American citizens to death, BEFORE WORK. Not during work. BEFORE WORK.
The Star-Spangled Banner cannot be damaged by people kneeling instead of standing when its performed. Kneeling does not even indicate defiance or disrespect as a posture. It indicates respect, in some contexts even submission to being ruled. People kneel in worship in Christian churches every Sunday, and many of them take the knee to pray at their bedsides before they go to sleep every night.
This “protest” causes no harm to anyone. It puts no one at risk. It causes no property damage. It causes no riots or looting. It does not bring anyone to the street to be beat up, shot with rubber bullets or tear gas (or canisters). It doesn’t even cause the police to have to come out and be seen either behaving themselves or behaving like the criminals they are supposed to be protecting everyone, equally, against.
What is going on here?
What is really going on with all of this controversy? Do people really have a problem with Kaepernick saying “hey Officers, please stop killing people” or are they protesting the 1st and 14th Amendments; the Rights to Free Speech, Expression, and Protest? Are people so enamored of rich, racist, buffoons and so hateful and suspicious of their own government they can be manipulated against the Bill of Rights?
Are people so gullible, so easy to distract, so incapable of more than the most shallow and superficial level of thinking, that they cannot do more than assume the posture and adopt the opinions of whatever echo chamber loudmouth reaches their eyes and ears first? Are people so dumb they will focus on the details of least importance so they can ignore the details of critical importance to the continuation of Democracy?
The national dialogue is more and more swinging away from why Kaepernick was protesting in the first place. It has become all about the NFL and what the sports team owners have done or not done. The NFL leadership took a token step or two toward supporting the players and then cowered in confusion over a dip in TV viewership. They colluded to block Kaepernick from being hired by another team.
According to USA Today, since 2010, there have been 901 NFL Player arrests: NFL Player Arrests.
This is the same NFL that put Michael Vick back to work. The same Michael Vick who, with two others, was running a dog fighting ring across state lines; who was arrested and pled guilty in 2007. A man who murdered at least two dogs and lied about it to the FBI, or at least tried to. A man from whom 49 dogs were seized, one had to be euthanized because it was too aggressive. One had her teeth ripped out for breeding purposes.
The same Michael Vick who went to Federal prison for 18 months, then spent the last two months of his sentence on house arrest. The same Michael Vick who was reinstated, with conditions, in the NFL 7 days after his house arrest ended and was playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the next season. This guy gets to go back to work and pay off his debts after what he did, but Kaepernick kneels and gets blacklisted from his job?
The NFL can look past all kinds of arrests for various crimes (take a look at the long list of those arrests) but they can’t stand their ground and back their employees up on their Constitutionally protected First Amendment rights? The NFL has no backbone with which to stand up for its players nor does it have any with which to stand up for itself as an organization, that’s pretty clear, and it’s pretty sad.
Obviously, Nike does not have that kind of problem. And now everyone wants to talk about Nike and its stock market shares, and its profit margins. People want to burn and otherwise deface their own purchased gear; shoes that cost $100 a pair, because a racist orange lunatic in the White House has them all convinced that Constitutionally Protected Rights are “Un-American“?
Go ahead and burn those shoes and the rest of the Nike brand gear. Go on, because plenty of other people are going to buy those products, buy those shoes up. If I had a $100 I would buy a pair of those shoes myself; correction: I’m told they own Converse; I own one pair of Converse. I think I need a second pair. Sure that company is looking to make a profit. They deserve to.
They are saying people have a right to not be shot to death by police during basic arrest procedures. They are saying that a man has a right to express a protestation that other people, whether he knows them or not, should not be killed by police during arrest situations. They are recognizing that his form of protest is non-violent, causes no harm and no damage; then he goes to work making his employers billions of dollars.
All his employers had to do was stand with him. They didn’t; Nike IS. Good on Nike for securing all its contracts before showing their hand. That was a smart move on their part.
So go ahead and burn those shoes and the rest of the gear. Other people are going to buy those $100 dollar shoes because someday…those bitches are going to be collector’s items.
So thank you Nike for being an awesome organization willing to just do it.
Thank you Orange Lunatic currently inhabiting the White House with your childish rants, and your horde of lemmings all busy having Nike shoe bonfires. Free negative publicity appears to be really good for American business. In fact, go buy more and burn those too, so surviving pairs of Nike shoes are worth that much more later.
Most of all, thank you Colin Kaepernick. You are not wrong in your protest, and the way you have done it shows honor, respect, empathy, compassion, care for others, and most importantly, it puts no one at all in harm’s way. I sincerely hope the NFL gets their collective heads out of their collective asses and lets you have your career back. You at least deserve it.
I also hope that a lot more people decide to join Kaepernick in taking a knee in the effort to stop police brutality and racial injustice. Ironic that such a small act of respectful insubordination would end up requiring so much courage in a place that is supposed to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave“.