Capitol Journal: Colin Kaepernick chose not to vote. He should stop complaining about the system
America has a lot more pressing concerns than whether a mediocre quarterback for a lousy football team stands or kneels during the national anthem.
Standing during the pregame ritual, as practically all of us do, shows respect for the flag and expresses pride and gratitude in being an American.
We thank our lucky stars.
Kneeling, as San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick has been doing all season to protest alleged police brutality and the oppression of black people, is certainly within his right.
Personally, I think it’s misguided because it disrespects the core foundation of America and the Constitution that guarantees us the right to protest against systemic imperfections. Protest the imperfections, but not the whole of America, which the national anthem honors.
Moreover, it’s counterproductive. Black lives do matter, and too many police need to be better trained and not so quick on the trigger. But the simplistic kneeling by Kaepernick and other players who have copied him has focused much more attention on their behavior than on the real problems they’re protesting.
What really fries me, however, is that Kaepernick — the supposed committed idealist — didn’t bother to vote Nov. 8.
In fact, he didn’t even get off his butt to register to vote. He never has anywhere he lived, the Sacramento Bee reported last week.
So Kaepernick is the classic hypocrite. And a bad role model. He hasn’t been connecting the dots between griping and voting to fix what he’s griping about.
Yes, he has a constitutional right to refuse to stand during the anthem. Yes, he has a right to say a pox on politics and not vote. But no, he doesn’t have a moral right to both disrespect the country and not exercise his fundamental birthright — and duty — to help change it.
Remember: Blacks and whites were beaten, busted and bitten by police dogs while marching for voting rights in the 1960s. Some were murdered.
A few kudos to Kaepernick, however. He has pledged $1 million to groups fighting oppression.
Kaepernick, 29, has a compelling background. His biological mother was a destitute white teen. His black father took off before he was born. A white couple adopted him, and he was raised in Turlock in the San Joaquin Valley. He was a star high school athlete — football, basketball, baseball — and had a 4.0 grade point average.
Kaepernick played football for the University of Nevada, Reno, on a scholarship. Then he was drafted by the 49ers, who pay him roughly $14 million a year.
In 2012, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they lost. Then his career declined until he recently was reinserted as the starting quarterback.
In preseason, Kaepernick began sitting out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Later, he changed to taking a knee.
“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 told reporters. “There are bodies in the street and people” — cops — “getting paid leave and getting away with murder....”
“I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change.”
OK, but every citizen has a voice at the ballot box and can effect change by voting. Give Donald Trump’s supporters credit. They effected change. A change to what? That’s a different issue.
Kaepernick didn’t like either Trump or Hillary Clinton, not an uncommon attitude. He called them both liars and racists.
After their first debate, he told reporters: “To me it was embarrassing to watch that these are our two candidates. Both are proven liars. And it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist.”
After it was revealed that he hadn’t registered, Kaepernick said “it would be hypocritical of me to vote” — apparently not understanding it was hypocritical not to. His rationale: “I said from the beginning … I was against the system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system.”
But Kaepernick was being disingenuous. In previous elections, he also didn’t vote for America’s first black president.
In September, President Obama defended the player’s right to not stand during the pregame ceremony, saying he was “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.”
Trump’s view: “I think it’s a terrible thing and, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.”
Even if Kaepernick couldn’t stomach either presidential candidate, there were tons of important issues on the California ballot. Some of them you’d think would interest him.
There was a proposition to repeal the death penalty, which many believe discriminates against blacks and Latinos. It lost narrowly. There also was a measure to expedite the death penalty. It won narrowly. And another proposal will allow earlier parole of prison inmates, which could help minorities. It won.
Also there were winning propositions to generate more school money, resume bilingual education and legalize marijuana.
Elections have consequences. A local election in Santa Clara allowed the fancy stadium where Kaepernick plays to be built.
And it’s easy to register. You can do it online and vote by mail. In all, 19.4 million Californians are registered, and roughly three-fourths of them voted this month.
Far too many Americans like Kaepernick grouse about politicians but don’t hold them accountable by voting.
When people don’t vote, they just hand over more power to the oppressors.
Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter
The view from Sacramento
For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.