Capitol Journal: Colin Kaepernick as ‘citizen of the year’? Not quite — good citizens vote
Colin Kaepernick is a decent quarterback whom no NFL team will hire. He’s a gutsy guy who stood up against racial injustice by kneeling. But “citizen of the year”? Hardly.
GQ Magazine last week named the former San Francisco 49er its Citizen of the Year. Sorry. Good citizens vote. It’s not only their right, it’s their duty. Kaepernick, 30, has always rejected voting.
That makes his past refusal to stand during the national anthem — he called it a protest against America’s oppression of black people — seem hollow and hypocritical.
In this country, public policy is decided through voting. The ballot box is where decision-makers are chosen or canned. It’s called democracy, and we honor it by standing during the national anthem.
Kaepernick knelt all last season, starting a divisive protest movement throughout the NFL.
A recent statewide survey by the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found a plurality of California voters opposing Kaepernick’s and other players’ kneeling — 41% to 33%.
Republicans were overwhelmingly opposed by a margin of 78 percentage points; independents by 9 points. Democrats favored the kneeling by 27 points.
There was a significant generational divide. Voters over 45 opposed kneeling. Those under 45 favored it. Whites were strongly opposed. Blacks and Latinos were supportive.
Personally, as I wrote a year ago, I think refusing to stand for the anthem disrespects the core foundation of America and the Constitution. That’s what guarantees us the right to peacefully protest against the nation’s imperfections without being jailed. Protest the imperfections, but not all of America.
The NBA requires all of its basketball players to stand for the national anthem. The NFL should too. During the Los Angeles Dodgers-Houston Astros World Series, there was a grand scene of both baseball teams standing along the first and third base lines, caps over their hearts, during the pre-game anthem.
Kneeling not only is disrespectful, it distracts from the intended message. Fans pay big bucks and click on their TVs to watch players perform athletically, not engage in culture protests.
Take it off the field. Sound off on your own time. Contribute money to causes, which Kaepernick has. Most of all: vote.
Not voting is what really upsets me about Kaepernick.
People were beaten, busted and bitten by police dogs while marching in the South for voting rights in the 1960s. Some were murdered.
As of November 2016, Kaepernick had never even bothered to register to vote.
“It would be hypocritical of me to vote,” Kaepernick told reporters last year. “I said from the beginning…I was against the system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system. And to me, the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.”
Wonder what this guy was doing in civics class.
Regarding then-presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Kaepernick indicated he really didn’t care who won. Pretty naïve. After one debate, he told reporters: “Both are proven liars. And it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist.”
OK, Kaepernick could have left the presidential box blank. There was plenty of other important stuff on the ballot. In California, there was a measure to end the death penalty, which many believe discriminates against people of color. It lost narrowly. There was another proposal to expedite executions. It won narrowly.
Kaepernick also twice didn’t bother to vote for the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.
All that said, Kaepernick has a movie script-caliber personal story.
His biological mother was a poor white teen. His black father deserted her before he was born. A white couple adopted him, and he was raised in Turlock in the San Joaquin Valley. He starred in high school football, basketball and baseball while earning a 4.0 grade-point average.
Kaepernick played football at the University of Nevada, Reno, and was drafted by the 49ers. In 2012, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they narrowly lost. Then his play gradually declined as the team started stinking. Last year he lost his starting job, regained it and was playing well at season’s end.
He also had started kneeling, motivated by police killings of unarmed black men.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he proclaimed.
After the season, Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract, which was to pay him $16.9 million in salary and bonuses for this season. The team was planning to release him anyway. In football, salaries aren’t necessarily guaranteed.
Kaepernick became a free agent. Despite enough talent to at least be a backup quarterback, no team signed him. He has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging collusion by owners to blackball him.
“You’re not bigger than the NFL,” Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown of the Oakland Raiders told Times football writer Sam Farmer. “Certain things you really need to talk to people about before you do.”
“What Kaepernick needs to do,” San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler wrote recently, “is a flip-flop, becoming a strong advocate for voting…. He should listen to people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who believed the vote was important enough to die for.”
When Kaepernick doesn’t vote, he shirks his duty as a citizen. And he leaves a political void to be filled by some oppressor.
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