You can disagree with Colin Kaepernick and still respect his courage

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, September 25, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: kkroeger@nuqum.com or kentkroeger3@gmail.com}

At this point, an NFL starting quarterback job would be a demotion for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Willingly or not, he is now  one of this nation’s most prominent symbols of protest against police brutality towards people of color. And for good reason. He took a visible position while a player in this country’s favorite professional sport — and did so knowing it could (and did) jeopardize his career.

#IMWITHKAP is becoming a mainstay on Twitter’s trending list in part because the core issue being highlighted by Kaepernick — equal treatment under the law by our nation’s police and judicial system — continues to divide this country.

My 11-year-old son, a rabid Washington Redskins football fan, can’t spell Q-U-A-R-T-E-R-B-A-C-K, but he can spell K-A-E-P-E-R-N-I-C-K. His friends are still talking about Kaepernick, over a year removed from last playing a significant down in an NFL game.

On one level, this could be evidence of Kaepernick’s success. Sadly, however, Kaepernick’s original protest seems to be lost in what are now the daily distractions our president and the servile media have chosen to be our next 24-hour obsession.

WHY KAEPERNICK KNELT FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

Kaepernick initially sat down and eventually took a knee instead during the national anthem at NFL games as a protest for the unequal and deadly application of police force in this country towards African-Americans.

We should welcome discussion on this topic whatever the viewpoint. I do not apologize for using both the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter hashtag when tweeting on this issue.

The police are put in harms way every day and they don’t always have the luxury to make the best decisions under stressful circumstances. And, yes, young men are increasing their chances of being killed by law enforcement when they do not immediately and unequivocally comply with police commands.

All true but do not abrogate our responsibility as a civil society to find ways to minimize these too frequent deadly force confrontations between law enforcement and citizens.

From a statistical perspective, the evidence is murky on whether African-American men are disproportionately killed by law enforcement. The Washington Post’s 2015 investigation into the issue found that, out of the 995 people killed by police in 2015, less than 4 percent (38 people) involved an unarmed black man and a white police officer. In 2016, only 17 unarmed black men were killed by the police, according to The Post. That is 17 too many.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 64 police officers were killed in firearm-related incidents in 2016 compared to 41 killed in 2015.

These numbers may seem small relative to the amount of news coverage dedicated to police shootings and racial justice, but what the statistics don’t capture are the intense emotions generated within the African-American and law enforcement communities every time a police shooting video is released to the public.

Regardless of your view on whether it is appropriate to kneel during the national anthem, we can all agree that our law enforcement officers work within the most weaponized civilian population in the world. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 113 guns per 100 residents in the U.S. The next most armed country is Serbia with 76 guns per 100 residents.

Americans arm themselves like Peshmerga rebel fighters and then ask their law enforcement officers to go into dangerous situations where suspects can sometimes have more firepower at their disposal than the police on the scene. Solely judging police officers for making bad decisions in those situations is short-sighted and unproductive. However, how we train our law enforcement officers, particularly with respect to rules of engagement and deescalation training, must be addressed.

Something has to change and that, in my view, is what Kaepernick’s simple and visible protest was always about.

That Kaepernick responded to his fellow 49er teammate and former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer‘s belief that sitting during the anthem was disrespectful to our military members’ sacrifices, and that kneeling would be more appropriate, confirms the former 49ers quarterback’s intentions. Kaepernick was not trying to disrespect the military, the flag, or the country — his purpose was to keep the issue of the unequal application of justice on the nation’s agenda. That’s all.

But that was when Barack Obama was president. This is a new day and a new president.

The issue of racial injustice now requires the Trump name to be repeated 125 times per hour while discussing any hot topic issue. And while we can admire what many NFL owners and players did this past weekend, we should not forget how the league has manipulated the national anthem for its own purposes, particularly in the last 10 years.

The NFL not only cloaks itself in the American flag, but emphasizes its military symbolism to the neglect of other important aspects the flag embodies (like say, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, equality before the law, justice, and all that other legally do-gooder stuff that can’t be easily represented by things as cool as a B2 Stealth Bomber doing a low stadium flyover). Many will rightfully note the NFL’s extraordinary cynicism given that it once required the U.S. Department of Defense to pay for halftime tributes to our nation’s military members.

After Trump’s incendiary Alabama speech, Roger Goodell said some good things about the players kneeling at NFL games. He’s still a shit head toady for the owners, though.

As for the news media and the political Left, they need to stop posing Trump’s remarks against these NFL player protests as potentially infringing on their right of free speech. Trump’s comments were not a threat to the First Amendment.

The NFL is a private organization run by the team owners. They run an entertainment enterprise and have the legal right to set rules on how their employees behave when they represent the NFL. This is not a First Amendment issue, despite what Megyn “I was a lawyer once” Kelly tells us.

NO ROLE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT OF SETTING THE AGENDA

You don’t need to exaggerate Kaepernick’s influence to appreciate how his simple act of protest became something much bigger.

Statistics do not always tell the whole story. The issue of race is one of those cases where the official data we collect fail to reflect the real experience of being a person of color in this country. Numbers are sterile and emotionless. Videos, on the other hand, are visceral.

The latest disturbing video comes Huntington Beach, California where a High School junior was shot dead outside a 7-11 after wrestling with a police officer and grabbing something from the officer’s belt (it appears to have been his walkie-talkie, but it is not clear in the video). This is not suggesting young men should wrestle with police officers with impunity. It is suggesting that some law enforcement officers are not prepared for situations like the one in Huntington Beach.

Police should not be issuing summary death sentences in these circumstances. I don’t understand why the law enforcement community would want its officers making these decisions when legitimate non-lethal forms of defense are available and already in the hands of police officers.

While President Trump spits out needless and impertinent remarks meant only to garner crowd applause, Kaepernick has stayed out of the spotlight. Only his mother’s tweet in response to Trump’s Alabama remarks gives a reminder that her son is still a figure in this protest movement.

Kaepernick’s absence however does not protect him from personal attacks, even among commentators otherwise sympathetic to his cause.

ITS ALWAYS A BULL MARKET ON THE CABLE NEWS NETWORKS FOR EXPERTS TO GIVE STUPID OPINIONS

Perhaps the saddest comments I’ve heard since Trump’s original comments in Alabama came from the elder statesmen of sports broadcasters — NBC’s Bob Costas.

While appearing on one of CNN’s morning shows, Bob Costas gave an awkward and intellectually sloppy dismissal of Kaepernick’s importance in this current controversy. According to Costas, who apparently has the education he considers necessary to judge who should and should not lead racial justice protests, suggested that Kaepernick’s public statements regarding the futility of voting makes him “an imperfect messenger” for this protest movement.

Fair enough, that is Costas’ opinion. And to be truthful, Kaepernick has made some decisions I would not have recommended (i.e., socks showing pigs wearing police uniforms).

But Costas’ citing Kaepernick’s voting cynicism ignores the litany of writers, academics and prominent social activists that have come to similar conclusions.

Costas instead cites Mohammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Jim Brown as better representatives of what a protest leader should sound and look like. Again, I admire each of those four men for varying reasons, but how Costas determines their qualifications for leadership to be superior to Kaepernick’s is baffling. No, its just stupid.

Here is a quote that is not stupid. It was how Kaepernick explained his reason for kneeling during the national anthem in the first place: This country stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

Costas’ gripe about Kaepernick’s credentials mirrors similar dismissals made by politicians and media opinion elites about ABC talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s criticisms of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. Conservative writer Stephen Moore called Kimmel “uneducated” on the subject. Others mocked his over-simplification of the bill’s effect on Americans. God knows, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have never put “experts” on their air that over-simplified an issue like health care. I’m so exhausted right now, I’m reduced to offering low-grade sarcasm. Its late in the day and I have little else left in the tank.

Hypocrisy, elitism and occasional idiocy is embedded in our genetic code and I fully expect someday Colin Kaepernick will say something wrong or ill-timed that will require a day of national outrage against him and everything for which he stands.

Until then, he gets my respect for standing against what he perceives to be an injustice. We don’t have to agree with him.

We are a great but imperfect nation and we should all, when we see imperfections, share our concerns with our fellow citizens. That’s not disloyalty or lack of patriotism. It’s our civic duty. And that is why I respect Colin Kaepernick today.

 

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

 

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