Colin Kaepernick, Day 5: Two Wrongs don’t Make a Right


Day 5 of the Colin Kaepernick-refuses-to-stand-for-the-national-anthem saga rolls on. The conversation still hasn’t really changed since Saturday right after Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem. It surely hasn’t changed since yesterday. Yet somehow as more opinions are inserted and more debate is had it gets more depressing and its gets worse.

If you read enough takes on Kaepernick’s action part of the commentary is that what he did, specifically not standing for the national anthem, invited a debate which inevitably gets off topic. By not standing for the national anthem Kaepernick invited debate on American freedoms and the American military instead of on social injustice and racial inequality. This is why some, while supporting Kaepernick’s beliefs and his attempt to call greater attention to the issue, criticize his method and his arena.

Others have argued that the very fact that the debate gets off-topic and sidetracked is a symptom of the greater problem. More headway has not been made on issues of social justice and racial inequality because people don’t want to talk about it, especially when it is shoved in their face. They get defensive and take the opportunity to make the conversation about anything else other than what it should be; the problem is institutional and structural.

A particular aspect of this point has been highlighted by quotes from two different sources. One is Paul Finebaum, controversial radio host and ESPN media member. The other is random, anonymous NFL executive. Here is Finebaum on College Football Live on ESPN,

“I think it’s totally disrespectful to sit. And others have said it and will continue to say it, for the men and women that have given their lives for this country. Having said that, I think Colin has every right to do whatever he wants, and that’s what makes America the country that it is. Disrespectful, yes, but well within his rights…

“Usually people protest when they’ve been oppressed, when they have a legitimate stake in the action. I don’t know where Colin is coming from. What’s his beef with society, other than he’s upset with how, in his mind, people are being oppressed in this country?

“I don’t think this country’s built and based on people doing outlandish things so the Twitterverse reacts. I think when you have a strong statement to make, when you feel oppressed and you’re trying to help enact change, I don’t understand where Colin is coming from in terms of this specific issue. He’s upset about the way minorities are being dealt with, in his words ‘oppressed,’ he’s talking about police brutality, sitting down during the national anthem, I don’t think is the connector to those issues.”

These are full quotes from Finebaum which, on the show, were interspersed as part of a “conversation” between Finebaum, David Pollack and Joey Galloway. The video of the entire segment can be seen here:

This follows from comments made by Finebaum earlier this week on his radio show where he said, “this country is not oppressing black people”. However, Galloway spoke to this issue during the show by saying,

“How you feel about that doesn’t actually…that’s the thing, you’re taking your feelings and putting them on his situation. If that’s the way he feels, then he has the absolute right to feel that way…

“You’ve never had to, Paul. Someone of your color, you’ve never had to do that. We’re talking about a completely different situation. You said you’ve never had to do something like that, you’re absolutely right.”

The entire segment is really one big win for Galloway and you should watch it all, but in just this one part Galloway hits it on the head. Of course Finebaum cannot understand Kaepernick’s point, Finebaum is white. It is dangerous to stereotype in this way, but in this individual case based on Finebaum’s comments it would appear to be true. Finebaum is effectively embodying white privilege.

Finebaum’s argument is not unique or new to this debate. Many have declared that Kaepernick cannot talk about social injustice and racial inequality because he is a multi-millionaire professional athlete. Obviously there is no oppression. It may be argued this point of view is part of that white privilege. However, there is another aspect of declaring Kaepernick unqualified to take this stance which also speaks to privilege.

Anonymous NFL sources asked about Colin Kaepernick were reported to not “believe he appreciates what he has. Many of them pointed to Kaepernick’s salary and said he would never make that kind of money if not for football”. In the story this was perhaps by far the least explicitly offensive thing these anonymous sources had to say about Kaepernick, but it does say something about how others believe Kaepernick should behave. In short, Kaepernick should enjoy his privilege.

Why would Kaepernick speak out when he has millions of dollars and a professional sports career? Where would he be without football? You’re rich, what can you say about the poor? Enjoy your privilege.

Many believe as a result of Kaepernick’s action he will never again play in the NFL. But Kaepernick seems to understand that ramification and is okay with it. He says if that happens he will dedicate his life working on issues of social justice.

That is privilege.



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