Dear Mr. Kaepernick,
Recently I, like the rest of America, became witness to your “protest” at the San Francisco 49ers games, in which, during the playing of the National Anthem, you chose to exercise your Constitutional right to remain seated, refusing to give honor to the symbol of the freedom we all share as Americans. In a statement to NFL Media, you said:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder… This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Now first of all, I would like to commend you for taking a (albeit misguided) stand for something. There are far too many people sitting on the sidelines of life doing nothing to help cure the social, moral, financial, and humanitarian problems our nation is facing right now. We live in a “selfie” society of the self-absorbed, with people unwilling to step outside of their comfort zones to reach out to their fellow man.
But, for your stand (or lack thereof — pardon the irony),
here’s the problem…
Exactly how does disrespecting the symbol of the freedoms you have been privileged to enjoy (many times over) accomplish anything? If you want to talk about responsibility, where is your responsibility to, after the talent and opportunity you have been blessed with, be a positive example to the youth of our nation? Where is your responsibility to be intellectually honest about the “cause” you have chosen to stand behind? Where is your responsibility as a “one-percenter” to use your vast resources to make a real, positive, and sacrificial difference in the world around you?
I understand that you support Black Lives Matter, which began after the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, but gained national prominence after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Now, we all recall that Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman — who was not a police officer, but was instead an insurance underwriter and private citizen — who CNN described as a “white Hispanic”; a description that smacked of racism, and was criticized by a variety of sources for a perceived attempt at trying to turn an unfortunate event into a racial issue. As for Michael Brown, even after the “hands up — don’t shoot” narrative was proven (multiple times) to be an absolute fabrication, your friends at Black Live Matters — as well as some of your fellow NFL players — didn’t let the facts get in the way of their flawed narrative.
In this blog about 2 months ago, I discussed the issue of police violence and corruption. Here is an excerpt for your consideration…
There are approximately 765,000 law enforcement officers in the United States who carry “arrest power” (the authority to arrest an individual). All total, there are over 1.1 million people who work in some capacity of law enforcement. An October 2015 article in The Washington Post confirmed the following…
… “Only a small number of the shootings — roughly 5 percent — occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were…armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.”
… “Of the 800 people killed by police this year, almost half have been white, a quarter have been black and one-sixth have been Hispanic.”
Now, statistically speaking, what one can surmise from this article is that…
- Out of 765,000 officers, only 800 (total) have been involved in a fatal confrontation.
- According to this statistic, .1% of police were involved in a shooting the year this article was written (2015).
- Of the 800 people killed, the majority were white, and only a quarter were black.
- Based on these approximations, and assuming that EVERY killing was unjustified (which we are not, except for the purpose of this example), that leaves approximately .03% of all police officers as being involved in the killing of African-Americans.
And please remember, these statistics come from The Washington Post, not what many would consider a “right-wing news outlet”.
Now, Colin, let’s look at another statistic…
There are approximately 1,696 players in the NFL, with an average annual salary of approximately $1.9 million. According to USA Today, from the beginning of 2015 to this date, there have been roughly 56 NFL players who have been arrested/cited for a variety of crimes ranging from DUI to domestic violence to drug charges and more. Based on these statistics, we can derive that about 3% of players in the NFL have been accused of crimes in the last year-and-a-half. Do you feel no obligation to speak out against your fellow players who break the law? Should we mete out the same level judgmentalism that you have, and lump you in with the criminal element within the NFL? After all, if every cop is a racist killer, then by your logic, every member of the NFL is a drunk-driving, drug-addicted, domestic abuser (yourself included).
You are correct in saying there are people that are oppressed in our nation. A couple of years ago, a team from my church visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to minister to some of the Oglala and Lakota Sioux native Americans there. What they found there was heart-breaking. If you want to make a real difference, how about taking your off-season time and some of your vast fortune, and helping some of these people in need?
As for disrespecting the flag and our National Anthem, I understand that some veterans have spoken out in support of you. Maybe that is because they understand the concept that what they fought for, and watched some of their brothers die for, was what the flag represents… freedom; even if it means the freedom to disrespect the flag as well as their sacrifice.
But who, exactly, are you disrespecting? Here are a few…
- Crispus Attucks… the first person killed in The Boston Massacre, and considered to be the first casualty of the American Revolution.
- John Martin… the first black American to fight in the Marines.
- The Louisiana Battalion of Free Men of Color… who volunteered to fight with General Andrew Jackson in The Battle of New Orleans.
- The Harlem Hellfighters… who fought for six months on the front lines during World War I. 171 members were awarded The Legion of Merit.
- The Tuskegee Airmen, the 761st Tank Batallion, and the 452nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion… three brave all African-American units that served during World War II, and led to the desegregation of the U.S. military.
All of the names and companies listed above were comprised solely of African Americans. The flag of our nation, Old Glory, is the symbol many of these brave men fought and died for. The bullets coming at them weren’t fired based on the color of their skin. They were being shot at based on the color of their flag, and what that flag represented… freedom and liberty.
You are right in being outraged about “bodies in the street”. We all should be. But the vast majority of those bodies in the street are the result of gang violence, drugs, and out of control crime in places like Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, and Oakland… perpetrated by individuals who have lacked a positive role model. So how does your disrespect during the National Anthem do anything to solve those problems, other than give young people in our nation, not something to aspire to, but something else to complain about, and yet one more excuse for antisocial/bad behavior. When more black babies are aborted than are being born in places like New York City, I would venture to say that our problems are much deeper than the less than .03% of “bad cops”, and are not going to be solved by a handful of millionaire athletes disrespecting the symbol of what is RIGHT with our nation.
So, Mr. Kaepernick, I encourage you to take a long, hard look inside. You have the position, platform, and resources to make a real and lasting difference. Now that you have everyone’s attention for the wrong reason, you have the unique opportunity to turn it around for the right reason, and turn it into something positive. You can take what began, in the eyes of the vast majority of Americans as a disrespectful and offensive symbolic gesture, and use that notoriety to make a substantive positive difference in the lives of others. There is an old saying, “Just because you have the right to doesn’t make it right to.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because someone is willing to fight for your rights means that they endorse your actions. You might find yourself alone in that belief.
I encourage you to watch this video. Here is a coach making such a difference in the lives of his players.