Sunday, September 11, 2016

Colin Kaepernick's protest

“He’s exercising his Constitutional right to make a statement. I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so.” — President Barack Obama, September 5, 2016 

I'M SURE by now you've heard about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand for the national anthem before games as a means of protesting racial injustice. 


I often get chills and sometimes tear up when I hear the national anthem.
Paul calls me his Yankee Doodle sweetheart. But loving one's country should never mean being blind to its faults or injustices, and it should never, ever, ever be "my country, right or wrong." 


So Colin, I stand . . . or in this case, sit . . . with you, friend. 


One of the things that makes our country great, at least in theory, is the freedom to criticize it for whatever reason, wrong-headed or sound, but most especially so when our nation veers from the path of honor and justice. It's called freedom of speech, codified into the very first constitutional amendment, and as Americans, we're supposed to cherish it. 


It's not called "freedom of popular speech." I think it takes no small amount of courage for 
Mr. Kaepernick to adopt such a public and what he surely must have known would be an unpopular position. 


Here's what I think IS shameful? The Bay Area police union threatening to boycott 49ers games because Colin Kaepernick doesn't stand while the national anthem is played. 


That's right, according to NBC, Santa Clara police have threatened to stop securing Levi’s Stadium at 49ers games as long as Colin continues to protest during the national anthem. Now that smokes my bacon.


Yup, the police who took an oath to protect and serve apparently are only going to honor their sworn duties if they like how Colin comports himself. 


Evidently they believe they get to pick and choose who they protect and serve and under what circumstances. Never mind that this public they may or may not protect are the ones who, through taxes, pay their police salaries. 
When it comes to our police, how did the cart get SO in front of the horse?


Below is an opinion piece from The New York Times by a San Francisco resident and long-time 49ers fan.





What Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Looks Like to a Black 49ers Fan


By Gerald Harris

August. 31, 2016

San Francisco — Why are we, as sports fans, continually surprised when one of our heroes turns out to be a real person, with real feelings who is living in the same world we also live in? And when that athlete is black, why does white America respond with anger, as if the hero has broken some kind of sacred rule or understood deal? That deal seems to be, “You just go out and win games, collect your check, and if we really like you, you can retire and sell us stuff in TV commercials.”


Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for San Francisco, the city I love and pay a lot to live in, is the latest in a long line of black athletes who have decided to be real people with real concerns about the black community. This tends to happen when issues become so pressing that they break the heart of the athlete and pierce a wall they might choose to stay behind.


It was the Vietnam War for Muhammad Ali, the civil rights movement for countless others. For Kaepernick, it is the way black and brown people, just like him, are treated in the United States. He felt he could no longer stand for the national anthem at the beginning of 49ers games. In an interview published Saturday, he 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.”


I imagine I share with Kaepernick nightmares of the killing of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and so many others. As an African-American father of two sons who live or work in San Francisco, I fear their lives, or mine, might be taken unjustly in a confrontation with the police; the same police I respect and depend on to protect my community and keep it safe.


The 49ers play their last preseason game Thursday. I’ll be watching to see Kaepernick exercise his right to free speech — and to see how fans react. All week on sports radio, I’ve listened to people talk about him. His act of protest has been mixed in with a discussion of his ability on the field: He can’t see down field, he can’t read defenses, he’s not patriotic, they should trade the bum. A few callers have noted his right to make this protest, but they are in a minority.


San Francisco is an interesting place from which to observe this latest dust-up. It, like other major American cities, is growing whiter and richer and a lot less black. The black population in 2014 was less than 6 percent, down from nearly 11 percent in 1990. There are barely enough black residents in this city of 800,000 to sell out a San Francisco Giants game of 42,000 seats. This is happening in the city where the baseball park is on Willie Mays Plaza — the stadium built by Barry Bonds’s home run streak. It’s the city where Jerry Rice became the greatest wide receiver in the history of the N.F.L., where Nate Thurmond and Wilt Chamberlain put the Golden State Warriors on the map, and where Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are expected to sell out a planned new billion-dollar arena on the waterfront.


Kaepernick’s desire for black lives to matter in terms of equal opportunity and fair treatment can be asked in a particular way in San Francisco. Will jobs be offered in the booming tech sector here? Recent reports on diversity in the field show little progress. Will blacks be policed fairly? A federal judge ruled in June that there is “substantial evidence” of racially discriminatory law enforcement in the San Francisco Police Department.


The city is trying to address these concerns, with recent changes in police procedure. It has also made investments that cut down on food deserts in the few remaining areas where poorer black residents live. But the days of a vibrant black community in San Francisco with a black middle class large enough to support black bars, jazz clubs, restaurants and other businesses are over.


I have been a fan of the team since the late ’70s and I vividly remember “the Catch” by Dwight Clark in ’82 and our championship days. Back then, the fan base in the seats was much more local and diverse. Now, it seems, most of the people cheering in the stadium are white and from all over the Bay Area, since even the 49ers can’t afford to actually play in the city — the stadium is farther south, in Santa Clara.


Fans will conflate Kaepernick’s political stance with his on-field performance. His anthem protest wouldn’t matter as much if he threw four or five touchdown passes or rushed for a couple of scores. If he just became the jock they wanted to cheer for and shut out everything else but football, they would be delighted. He should let other people take care of real-world problems. Colin should just stick to the game!


Similarly, it seems to me, the heavily white and increasingly wealthy population in San Francisco wants the shrinking black population to just move along and not make too much noise as the gentrification continues. Black people can score for their teams, but just don’t try to live next door — or expect to find a job that pays enough for you to afford to live here in the first place.



2 comments:

  1. I have no interest in football but Kaepernick has caught my attention. His bravery and persistence is admirable in a land of shallow, fake patriotism. If we don't stand for the right to protest, we are no longer America. Freedom of Speech is the First Amendment and he has the right to exercise that right. Cheers to him and to all those who stand with him.

    ReplyDelete