Police officers are always on duty, even when they're off. While we sleep, they're awake. When we're out in public having fun, they're watching over us. As we pursue our education, our professional careers and our dreams, they put their lives on the line to make sure we have every opportunity to succeed. When our kids are at school or having fun with friends, they patrol the streets to insure their safety. They are not bullet proof like Superman nor do they possess any supernatural powers. They are human, and they bleed the same as the rest of us. The difference is, while most of us see trouble and run the other way, these people see trouble and run towards it. Their families fear for their lives every day, and are forced to live with the fact that mommy or daddy may leave for work one morning and never come home.
And what compensation do these societal heroes get in return for their sacrifice? The average police officer earns about $58,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But cops don't become cops to get rich. They become cops because they believe in protecting the public. And 99.9 percent of them perform their duties with courage, integrity and good will towards the people they serve.
Now contrast the life of a cop with San Francisco 49ers football star Colin Kaepernick, who has made a very public display in recent week of his utter disdain for police officers. And to add insult to injury, his disrespectful display has spread like a virus all the way down to high school football teams, where some coaches are allowing their teams to refuse to stand for the national anthem.
In compensation comparison with cops, Keapernick gets paid around $625,000 per game; even though he's a second string quarterback who spends his games on the bench. That means the average cop has to work 11.5 years to earn the same money that Kaepernick makes in a single game. 11.5 years of confronting criminals who want to kill them for the same money Kaepernick earns sitting safely on the bench for a few hours a week. All while being vilified and called pigs by a multimillionaire that's never sacrificed anything for his country outside of an interception. And now a number of ignorant high school football coaches and naïve and highly impressionable players want to make Kaepernick out to be some kind of cultural hero? Is this really how we want to raise our kids?
Am I suggesting that there are no bad cops? No. A tiny fraction of any profession has liars, cheaters and thieves. But to publicly and purposely disrespect cops, 99.9% who are honest, hardworking, every day heroes, is a disgrace that should not be tolerated. Kaepernick is no Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, both of whom risked their lives for social change. No, Kaepernick is just a 28-year old punk with a $114 million-dollar contract to throw a football that's using his fame and fortune to desecrate the reputation of police officers. These are the very people that provide the protection that allowed him to earn his outrageous fortune and live a lifestyle that most people only see in movies.
It's time for the coaches and leaders in the NFL, among others, to stop spitting in the cops' faces and start standing up for them. And it's time for Americans to show support for the people that protect us. Cops don't ask for much. They're brave, yet humble people who clock in every day not knowing if they'll live to clock out. They're not asking for us to idolize them the way we've taught our children to idolize athletes like Kaepernick. You don't hear them complaining about the risks they take or the salaries they earn. In the past two weeks, I've interviewed a couple dozen cops in the Atlanta area about Kaepernick, and all of them agreed that Kaepernick has the first amendment right to sit down during the anthem. All of the cops I spoke to were very gracious, yet they all looked genuinely disappointed that a rich and famous athlete would choose to vilify and embarrass them in front of the entire nation. The saddest part of interviewing them were the looks on their faces when I asked how they felt about the high school football teams following Kaepernick's lead. I saw tears in some of their eyes, and it was heartbreaking. One of the cops said to me, "I'm not offended by Kaepernick. I'm an adult and I know the difference between a social activist and a guy looking for attention. It's not a problem for me, and my cop buddies are a pretty tough lot. But when you start brainwashing kids to believe that cops are crooked, it hurts my heart. We give this job everything we have, and to be treated this poorly by the people we protect and are willing to die for is discouraging."
I've never been in the military or ever worn a uniform, but my grandfather was a cop during the 1930's in Chicago and was killed fighting Al Capone's mafia. Like many cops in Chicago during that time, he was accused of being on the take for Capone's gang. I've been told that my grandfather was a tough guy, but the accusation of him and his dedicated brotherhood of police officers being on the take was extremely disheartening for all of them. When my grandfather died, he left my mother, her mother and 2 daughters nearly penniless, which while terrible, proved that Capone's killers never got in his pocket. He died an honest man and a good cop, and so did many of his friends, protecting the very people who had falsely accused him.
I hope Americans will see through Kaepernick's little game and start standing up for cops. More importantly, I hope our high school coaches and administrators will do the same and teach our kids to give our police officers the respect and admiration they deserve. The first amendment may insure our freedom of speech, but it doesn't mean we should use it as a weapon to hurt people. Especially the ones who risk and sometimes sacrifice their lives to make sure we can live ours to the fullest.