Black Lives Matter better off without Kaepernick
Updated: May 31, 2020
Colin Kaepernick is an imbecile. Anyone associated with the Black Lives Matter movement should run away from the idea of Kaepernick as an advocate. It will not end well. It isn’t too dissimilar than appointing Donald Trump as the spokesman for conservative values. It does more damage than good.
At the outset, it’s important to understand that Kaepernick had every right to sit through the national anthem and to explain it as he did. You cannot be a liberty-loving American and hold any other position. Everything Kaepernick did falls well within First Amendment protection. In fact, any expert in constitutional law would note that his actions clearly enjoy the heightened protections of core political speech. In contrast to other types of speech — for example, commercial advertisements — courts almost never agree to any curb on the right to express a political message, no matter how disagreeable, offensive or abhorrent.
Furthermore, the underlying cause that Kaepernick stated his actions were meant to support, essentially the Black Lives Matter movement, advocates a host of issues that deserve serious and substantial consideration in our country. That is exactly why movement leaders should be very careful about embracing Kaepernick himself rather than just his free speech rights.
For any ardent football fan, Kaepernick represents a frustrating enigma. Among the two or three most athletically gifted quarterbacks in the NFL, he rides the bench for his team. After a very promising first two years, multiple coaching regimes eventually decided against putting the ball in his hands. In contrast to contemporaries such as Russell Wilson, Kaepernick simply has seemed incapable of processing the game before him. His coaches didn’t have confidence in his decision-making. If his coaches see such profound problems, leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement must understand how the same characteristics can hurt their cause.
For example, the very language employed by Kaepernick underscores the danger. In direct contrast to the poetic sting of legendary social change advocate Muhammad Ali, Kaepernick’s words were clumsy and inarticulate. Fox Sports contributor Jason Whitlock — one of the most insightful voices on race in sports — pointedly asked Kaepernick if “any of [the backlash] fall[s] on you in terms of articulating a clear message?” Whitlock noted in dismay, “You’ve said ‘police brutality.’ You’ve said ‘a lot of issues.’ That’s not that clear. If you’re gonna make this type of bold stand, and you want people to talk about the issues, you have to lay out the issues clearly.”
In fact, Kaepernick’s inelegant statement likely did damage to the cause he wanted to support. Due to the broad generalities, opponents inferred an anti-military undercurrent to his statement. While the Black Lives Matter movement has previously focused on police and the criminal justice system, Kaeperick seemed to single-handedly make military members an opposing faction. For a movement working to form alliances and convince outsiders of their plight, such a development could only be viewed as detrimental.
Additionally, Kaepernick’s very circumstances make the whole episode seem more Kardashian than Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Struggling for relevancy on his own team, much less in the media, Kaepernick’s actions have the feel of self-important stunt. That is in stark contrast to the silent protest of the 200-meter gold and bronze medalists of the 1968 Olympics.
Recently, the movement for Black Lives released a series of economic demands. Agree or not, the policy points are thoughtful and deserve national discussion and consideration. But nobody is talking about them. Instead, we are talking about Kaepernick. Here we have the most important substantive proposals issued by the movement to date, and Kaepernick stepped all over the media coverage. That is a danger the movement cannot afford.
Read this column from the Colorado Statesman online in ColoradoPolitics.com.