Colin Kaepernick, a proven, talented quarterback, cannot get a job in the National Football League. Even non-football fans know the reason: he chooses to exercise his First Amendment rights and kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem.
Kaepernick does this because he believes blacks are not getting fair treatment in the U.S. and too many are being needlessly killed.
Yet, this protesting prevents NFL football teams from hiring him since his release from his previous team. You would think the man is radioactive.
Many fans are stridently against him, given a bent to jingoistic behavior. But before you decide to do the same, let’s speak of three hypocrisies in the NFL leadership ranks.
First, the league likes to project a patriotic theme, with heavy military showmanship. If you look under the covers, however, you will find that your tax dollars pay for that show. Our military pays the NFL for the privilege to advertise its service for employment recruiting purposes. I am not saying we should not be patriotic, but this payment for jingoistic advertising may be a key reason Kaepernick is not being hired.
Second, Kaepernick is simply exercising his rights to free speech, which is far more representative of our freedom than a national anthem. Meanwhile, the NFL seems to have few misgivings about employing convicted or suspended players who have committed crimes, including domestic violence, drug possession, drug distribution, theft or steroid use. Advocating for Black Lives Matter is perceived to be worse than any of these crimes.
Finally, it would be well within Kaepernick’s right to protest the NFL for its role in hiding the league’s concussion problem, which has led to brain injuries that may not appear until after a player has retired. This active and prolonged obfuscation of the truth means even more players will suffer. The NFL eventually settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay $1 billion, which went to impacted players. While this is a major step, the league still tries to avoid some painful truths.
When I see commentators and fans denigrate Kaepernick, I think of these hypocrisies. The answer for his problem rests with the other players. Unless more than a few kneel out of respect for his rights and his legitimate protests, Kaepernick will not play again in the NFL. In the meantime, we fans need to understand why he is protesting and support his right to do so.
Keith Wilson, Charlotte Independent, is volunteer board member for a homeless agency and advocate for the disenfranchised and the environment.