Let's get a few things straight right from the kick off. Colin Kaepernick of the San Franicsco 49ers' is free to do whatever he likes during the playing of the national anthem. Two games ago he created a media firestorm by sitting on the bench during the anthem. And at the most recent game he went to one knee. He says he's protesting American racial injustice and minority oppression most commonly demonstrated when minority groups deal with law enforcement. He's worn socks at practice depicting pigs as police officers.
There is no denying our history of racial bias in this country and there is no denying the unsettling number of violent incidents between the police and members of the minority community, particularly African-Americans. None of this is new. Just a month ago I participated in a documentary recounting the rioting in Los Angeles in 1992 and the media coverage of those events. I was asked then if I thought it could happen again. It dawned on me that it already had, Ferguson.
But Colin Kaepernick is late to the movement and an imperfect bearer of the protest flag. A shot of him sitting on the bench is nothing new. He's a second string, at best, quarterback on a mediocre football team. Pine time is something he's very familiar with. And using the national anthem as a protest moment isn't exactly a bold move. You're on the sidelines with 60 or 70 other guys at a meaningless preseason game. Not exactly a 'black glove' moment on the Olympic medal stand. Plus, the national anthem, while in theory should bring goose bumps and moist eyes to all of us, is used at sporting events as what really? A jump starter? Let's not ascribe more to that moment than actually exists. If you can afford to attend an over-priced professional sports game of any kind take a good look around during the national anthem. Almost every one stands up, almost. Nearly everyone remembers to take off their cap, nearly. Some folks try singing along, some.
A lot of people stop talking, but not all. And if you're not actually in the stadium, but are out in the hallway at the concession stand or in the bathroom. You can hear the anthem but you just keep adding that mustard, or sipping your beer, or calling your buddies on the cell phone. And Lord only knows what goes on in the suites and press box. Let's not sanctify the playing of the anthem before a sporting event, after all the original reason it began was....
Marketing. Yup, marketing. 1918 and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had trouble generating enthusiasm for a pretty good team but what they did notice was that the crowd got more excited and they even sold a few more tickets if they played the national anthem before the game. So they kept it up, hey it's America remember? Anything that sells tickets. And even today it's pretty much a marketing item. Teams invite local singers who have become stars, or have some notoriety to sing the anthem before the game. Hey what can go wrong? Rosie O'Donnell. Robert Goulet.
That aside, it can be a nice moment and personally, I like it. You don't hear the anthem everyday and every once in a while it's good to take a second and remember what the anthem represents, which is different for everyone of us.
Including Colin Kaepernick. But one back up football player doesn't make a protest movement, which if you listen to the media coverage of Kaepernick's "sit down" you would think is happening.
He was joined by an injured teammate before the second game and by one other player on another team. Gee, that's all you got pro football? Where is the NFLPA, the players' union, in all this?
Where are the first string quarterbacks and stars? And more importantly what is the next step. If Colin Kaepernick is concerned about racial bias in law enforcement will a series of out reach programs between minority communities and police lead by Kaepernick and other NFL players be next on the agenda? Will he and other established sports personalities speak out, show up at rallies, lead?
One local sports wag actually compared Kaepernick to Muhammad Ali, which is laughable on all levels, both in talent and commitment. Sitting on your butt is not giving up your title, but there are moments when professional sports personalities can make a societal difference. This isn't one of those times, yet.