Groupchat: Bustin’ a Kaep

T is still Terry and J is still John. The other two are still in witness protection. It was some sort of summer sausage and crackers scandal, but I can’t remember who rammed who, or who absconded with all the cheese whiz.

B: Originally Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest of police brutality, but as the media took notice it became about the flag. I support his efforts against brutality and racial profiling by the police, but if you don’t stand for the National Anthem, how is it NOT going to be about the flag? Ironically, it has hurt the NFL and been detrimental to his career. A simple case of wrong place wrong time? Attention seeker or hero? What is the real story behind Colin’s intentions?

T: Kaepernick knowingly gave up his career, just like Curt Flood did in 1970 when he refused to be passed around the league like a groupie at Burning Man. Kaepernick even declined his $19 million contract to keep the 49ers safely out of the political fray.

The respect protesters give to the flag, by protesting to the flag, is the same respect given to all authority figures around the world. They protested the flag BECAUSE of its symbology, not in spite of it. The flag represents the authority they are protesting TO, not AGAINST.

In effect, they are telling the US authorities that they matter. That it’s not OK for the police to shoot young black men for committing petty drug crimes, while young white men get to go to rehab.

Remember – this is really the main issue – remember that all protests are calculated to piss people off. If you are pissed off, you are probably on the side of what they are protesting. That’s how it works.

B: I am merely searching for answers, because I initially saw this as selfish but I wonder now (still not completely convinced), that this obviously had a bad outcome for him. Are you saying he welcomed this for the cause?  You have to be specific with me, statistics tell me nothing. So he declined 19 mil to defer media from his team?

T: Nothing is ever as simple as it looks. Kaepernick has always been sort of a flake, dancing to this own beat. He’s about as ethnically mixed as you can get, with some of the whitest and blackest blood coursing through his veins, and several competing ethnicities within the more obvious ones. He’s a true world citizen, in that he’s a little bit of everyone. And he’s wealthy. His family has money, and of course he’s made millions playing football. So he was in a position to turn down the money, and take the stand.

At the time he took the first knee, I thought he was making a confusing gesture that nobody would get, but I admired his guts in taking on such an iconic symbol. I was right that he was kneeling into the teeth of a serious symbol – the flag inspires a lot of emotion – but I was totally wrong about the message.

Other players took up the protest, because it struck an obvious nerve. Whether it’s fair or not (I can’t say), the public perception is that black men get shot, white men get forgiven. Kaepernick was protesting that.

He turned down the contract to avoid the inevitable public relations nightmare for the team if they cut him. And they would have cut him, because he wasn’t worth the money. He was a backup QB by then, and backup QBs don’t make $19 million.

But if they had cut him, there would have been discrimination lawsuits. Kaepernick didn’t want that, because he wasn’t protesting his right to make $19 million. He was protesting something else.

B: I did not know it was for a cause at first like everyone else. There still remains no specific incident that was brought to light to veil police brutality, and it’s confusing that the protest gained momentum when the opposing protest was specific about heroes of war and specific about the flag. Why didn’t he stop when he had to see what was coming, with all the press he could have made a statement and found another place and time. I guess I still can’t get past my initial beliefs … although I no longer see him as selfish, and it is a GREAT cause, just wrong place and wrong time.

J: To be honest, it was the conservative media that made Kaepernick into the villain; they were the ones who made it seem like he was protesting against the national anthem, which he absolutely was not. They were the ones who made him seem unpatriotic and not a supporter of our troops for the stand he was taking or, more specifically I guess, just when he was taking it.

The ironic thing is that every single military person I’ve spoken to about this issue, without exception, supports Kaepernick; after all, they served to defend the right that he is exercising.

K:  All good protests make people uncomfortable. It’s too bad the message got twisted up in the flag.

B: So is America so racist that a clear line was never drawn about his intention? He continued to sacrifice his career when he knew what people thought? Or like T said, his career was secondary to the fact that he did not need the money anyway. On the other hand he did the right thing. If he had allowed the team to cut him the protest would have certainly become about him and not the original cause for which he stood, or kneeled.

T: The problem with people is that we are all inherently selfish, manipulative and greedy. Normal versions of this are part of the deal, so I mostly just sigh and move on. But political greed, selfishness and manipulation causes an unbelievable amount of angst and confusion, because it’s aimed at huge numbers of people. The curse of ignorance is that you become lambs to slaughter in front of your television sets. Nothing is more dangerous than misplaced concern.

Was Kaepernick’s concern misplaced? Honestly, I can’t say. Was the concern about the flag misplaced? I think so. The flag stands for the freedom to disobey, and nothing is more American than a good, angry protest that pisses everyone else off.

So agree or disagree with Kaepernick as you see fit. But his protest was as American as apple pie, and his sacrifice, misplaced or not, was genuine. He knowingly gave up his career.

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