Colin Kaepernick, Day 8: What’s the opposite of political correctness?

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You can agree with Colin Kaepernick. You can believe that he is taking a principled and very public stand against social injustice and racial inequality and forcing a national debate on those issues. A debate which is sorely even if somewhat thwarted by the tendency to go off-topic. And this is a debate to which Kaepernick seems dedicated. He has repeatedly reiterated his purpose behind refusing to stand for the national anthem and vowed to continue fighting for social justice. He has even stated he plans to donate the first $1 million of his 2016 salary to social justice causes. Or, if he loses his job he plans to work for organizations which fight for social justice.

You can disagree with Colin Kaepernick. His choice of venue and action was perhaps not ideal, depending on its intention. Kaepernick has attracted criticism from those who believe the American flag to be a symbol of American freedom and the American  military, and by refusing to stand for the national anthem he insulted those who have fought and continue to fight for those freedoms. Many have suggested if Kaepernick had chosen a different method of protest the debate may have had more singular focus on the issues of social injustice and racial inequality instead of veering towards the action itself. Additionally, Kaepernick recently attracted even greater scrutiny when it was revealed he had worn socks with images of a pig wearing a police hat during 49ers training camp. It was argued that wearing such a stereotypical symbol effectively negated the message behind Kaepernick’s actions and words.

Kaepernick has also attracted criticism from those who simply don’t seem to understand what is going on and why Kaepernick is saying and doing those things. Rodney Harrison said that Kaepernick had no right to protest because he isn’t black. Paul Finebaum stated that there is no oppression of black people in America. And in a letter to the NFL and the 49ers Martin Halloran, President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, took issue with what he viewed as attacks against police officers.

“Not only does he show an incredible lack of knowledge regarding our profession and ‘officer involved’ shootings, but also shows a naivety and total lack of sensitivity towards police officers. Ironically, it is those officers who on numerous occasions have protected Mr. Kaepernick and have ensured that the venues where the NFL holds its events are fully protected.

“I only wish Mr. Kaepernick could see the emotional and psychological challenges that our officers face following a fatal encounter. Some are so affected they never return to the streets. In short, Mr. Kaepernick has embarrassed himself, the 49er organization, and the NFL based on a false narrative and misinformation that lacks any factual basis.

“Perhaps Mr. Kaepernick could comment on the murder of 40 police officers in the United States in the past few months, or the assaults perpetrated on over 1000,000 law enforcement officers in the past year. Perhaps he could lend his commentary to the over 8,000 murders that African Americans inflicted on one another in 2015. The law enforcement community cannot be continuously blamed for all of society’s problems, including racial divide, in our country. It isn’t fair and it isn’t true.”

In other words, there is no problem and Colin Kaepernick decided to attack law enforcement for no reason, arguments which were ridiculed and denied by most who read this letter. However, while Harrison and Finebaum have each retracted their statements, the San Francisco Police Officers Association has been joined in their outrage by the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association. In a letter to the 49ers the SCPOA Board of Directors wrote,

“The members of the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association {SCPOA) have a long history of working with the San Francisco 49ers organization…

“Unfortunately, some recent actions by a 49ers employee have threatened our harmonious working relationship.  On August 26, 2016, prior to the start of the 49er pre-season football game at Levi’s stadium, on duty 49er employee Colin Kaepernick made the decision to exercise his right of free expression and not stand to honor the National Anthem. This expression caught the attention of the media. Following the game, your employee explained to the media that his actions were an attempt to get public attention to the oppression of African Americans and minorities in the United States by police officers. Your employee then insinuated that police officers are being placed on paid leave for murdering minorities. This statement is obviously insulting, inaccurate and completely unsupported by any facts.”

The letter proceeds to detail further statements by Kaepernick in the days following his initial explanation of his action. It goes on to explain Kaepernick’s socks and their derogatory nature. The letter continues,

 

“Our membership acknowledges that police officers are human and are not perfect. However, blanket statements that police officers in general, murder minorities is completely false and insulting to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement agencies across America.

“These intentional acts and inflammatory statements by Mr. Kaepernick are insulting to the members of the SCPOA …The 49ers organization has taken no action to stop or prevent Mr. Kaepernick from continuing to make inaccurate, incorrect and inflammatory statements against police officers, which include members of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association.

“Furthermore, your organization has made no statement disagreeing with Mr. Kaepernick’s accusations. It is the unanimous opinion of the SCPOA that the 49ers organization has failed to address your employee’s inappropriate workplace behavior. The board of directors of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior.

“SCPOA members have worked thousands of hours at Levi’s stadium, 49er training camp and headquarters protecting guests, players and fellow employees. Our officers voluntarily agree to work these assignments. If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate workplace behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities…

“The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association are sworn to protect the rights of ALL people in the United States, a duty we take very seriously.  Our members, however, have the right to do their job in an environment free of unjustified and insulting attacks from employees of your organization.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, mostly because almost everything in this letter is wrong. So let’s examine the many illegitimate statements one by one:

“Blanket statements that police officers in general, murder minorities is completely false and insulting to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement agencies across America.”

Such statements are insulting, but Kaepernick never said any such thing. In fact, he has repeatedly said he is not protesting all law enforcement and that he has great respect for law enforcement. While this may have been undermined a bit by his socks, his footwear is still not an indication of a blanket disregard.

“These intentional acts and inflammatory statements by Mr. Kaepernick are insulting to the members of the SCPOA.”

You really shouldn’t be so offended by something that never happened, unless it rings a bit too true.

The 49ers organization has taken no action to stop or prevent Mr. Kaepernick from continuing to make inaccurate, incorrect and inflammatory statements against police officers.”

Again, because he hasn’t actually made any inaccurate or incorrect statements against police officers. And being inflammatory was kind of the whole point.

Furthermore, your organization has made no statement disagreeing with Mr. Kaepernick’s accusations.”

The 49ers released a statement following Kaepernick’s action of sitting during the national anthem which recognized the right of Kaepernick to not stand. A statement by the NFL acknowledged there is no rule which forces players to stand. Beyond that the 49ers really have no ability to speak out against Kaepernick until he says something which is false. Which he has not.

It is the unanimous opinion of the SCPOA that the 49ers organization has failed to address your employee’s inappropriate workplace behavior.”

Exactly what about Kaepernick’s behavior was inappropriate? The letter acknowledges Kaepernick’s “right to free expression” and to not stand during the national anthem. Or is it simply inappropriate for Kaepernick to broach this topic? Since he has not actually made factually incorrect statements, such as the ones the letter accuses him of, what was inappropriate?

The board of directors of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior.”

How are they being harassed? As Kaepernick has made no blanket statements about police officers the only ones who should feel harassed are those who are guilty of perpetuating social injustice and racial inequality. Unless the officers simply feel harassed by being in the presence of opposing opinions.

If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate workplace behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities.”

First, what action are the 49ers supposed to take? They can cut Kaepernick, which they may still do. But his right to not stand for the national anthem is well-established. Therefore, they can’t make a statement opposing his action. And since Kaepernick hasn’t said anything which is incorrect any statement by the 49ers in opposition to Kaepernick would be an at least implicit argument on the part of the 49ers that there is no social injustice or racial inequality, and that there hasn’t been undue violence perpetuated by certain law enforcement officers on minorities, which would be factually untrue.

Second, if Santa Clara police officers and/or officers from any other jurisdictions choose not to work security at Levi’s Stadium that is their right. They are paid to be there separate from their jobs as police officers. They chose to use their off-duty hours to work for the 49ers. If they now choose not to or are told not to that is their right.

The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association are sworn to protect the rights of ALL people in the United States, a duty we take very seriously.”

Except when they disagree with that person, obviously. In which case they threaten to not protect that person, everyone else on the team and anyone else who chooses to be in and around the stadium on game day. And as mentioned above, they don’t have to protect those people if they choose not to do so. Just don’t try to take the moral high ground through the use of threats.

Our members, however, have the right to do their job in an environment free of unjustified and insulting attacks from employees of your organization.”

If and when that happens it should immediately be reported to the 49ers so the perpetrator may be properly and adequately punished. Additionally, in which case the 49ers would be justified and should make statements explicitly degrading those attacks and those who made them. But these attacks must be real, not perceived. As of now, the SCPOA perceives an attack on their members which does not exist, unless they are in the minority of law enforcement against whom Kaepernick is protesting.

There are arguments for and against the actions taken and statements made by Colin Kaepernick. You can simultaneously agree and disagree with him and not necessarily be wrong or contradictory. So long as you listen and pay attention to what he has actually done and said. These actions are apparently beyond the grasp of the SCPOA.

Disagreement and initial umbrage by law enforcement is to be expected. Kaepernick is effectively pointing out systemic and institutional flaws in the very nature of law enforcement. He also purposefully insulted and made derogatory statements about fellow law enforcement officers and officials. What Kaepernick has not done is to make blanket statements about all law enforcement or said he opposes all law enforcement. He has also not advocated any type of violence against law enforcement. If anything, Kaepernick wants law enforcement to be better. To be better trained. To more effectively interact with the citizens with whom law enforcement is tasked to protect. So that law enforcement does have the ability to protect the rights of ALL people.

One concern some have expressed regarding Kaepernick’s actions and statements is that they may result in continued loss of confidence in law enforcement. This concern is obviously shared by the SCPOA. However, it is important to note that this loss of confidence would be continued. That is to say it is not new. It is spurred by Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick has been spurred by the actions and statements of law enforcement. And it is statements such as this letter and the letter from the SFPOA which promise to continue this loss of confidence.

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