News broke yesterday that Colin Kaepernick has been observed and photographed wearing socks with the picture of a pig dressed in a police hat.
Many have taken this as further disrespect towards law enforcement in this ongoing saga. Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, told USA TODAY Sports,
“It’s just ridiculous that the same league that prohibits the Dallas [Cowboys] football club from honoring the slain officers in their community with their uniforms stands silent when Kaepernick is dishonoring police officers with what he’s wearing on the field.
“I think the league is in a downward spiral regarding their obligations to the public under [commissioner] Roger Goodell, and this is just another example of that.”
Many agree with Johnson that NFL rulings have in the past been hypocritical, unwarranted and inconsistent. However, what is the duty of NFL in this situation? Johnson’s argument seems to be that by wearing these socks Kaepernick is disparaging law enforcement and promoting a negative view. Thereby, the argument would be that the NFL has a responsibility to step in and prohibit Kaepernick from promoting a stereotypical and false view of the police. Furthermore, through such promotion Kaepernick may be taking actions which are dangerous for public safety.
Others have jumped on this line of thinking as well, arguing that at the very least Kaepernick has effectively ruined his previous action and argument regarding social justice and racial inequality. Kaepernick placed himself right alongside those he was protesting. Even those who previously supported Kaepernick’s action would have to rethink their support:
In response to this criticism Kaepernick responded with a statement on his Instagram page:
Kaerpernick’s socks do disrespect the police. He explains in his post that he does not mean disrespect to all law enforcement, only those who he sees as propagating and promoting an environment of tension and social unrest. He also recognizes that distractions such as his socks disrupt from the real issues and a real conversation about such social injustices and racial inequality. However, this does seem to fit a pattern with Kaepernick that has been pointed out by numerous people. Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem distracted from his argument because it was an all-encompassing and overriding action which offended those who mistook or misrepresented his action. Similarly, Kaepernick’s wearing of socks with pigs wearing police hats is seen as a shot at law enforcement generally. Kaepernick detracts from his own arguments through a lack of nuance.
Such arguments may be a bit fair, but only to those not paying attention or being willfully ignorant. First, as mentioned by Kaepernick in his post this point of view ignores everything else in Kaepernick’s personal history. Second, it’s not like Kaepernick had these socks made for him. In fact, they’re widely available here and here. Third, the pictures posted in every story and being widely disseminated on social media of Kaepernick wearing these socks is from August 10th. We’re just hearing about them three weeks later. It took 5 days for the media to find them after Kaepernick refused to stand and this whole controversy kicked off. His socks became a controversy and part of the story once people were looking for additional items to add to the narrative.
So no, Kaepernick has not abdicated the moral high ground. No, he has not lost the support of those who previously supported him. And as always, it has nothing to do with his ability to play football. They’re socks.