Originally Published: September 4, 2016 6 a.m.
Colin Kaepernick’s controversial refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem in a few NFL preseason games for the San Francisco 49ers has dominated the national sports news scene in recent weeks.
Mixed reactions by those in the sports community have given Kaepernick a bigger platform to stand on, and stand he does, just not during the national anthem.
Former all-pro safety and two-time Super Bowl champion Rodney Harrison was the first person to insert the proverbial foot in his mouth by saying Kaepernick is “not black.”
Yes, he is biracial, with a black biological father and white biological mother, but for Harrison to say, “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single day basis,” is strangely confusing.
Harrison, a current NBC analyst, continued: “When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. … You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.”
Clearly, Harrison has been wronged, or someone close to him has received ill treatment in the past for him to think this. That’s sad, and I feel for him. Do I deny Harrison’s comments and call them completely false based on merit? No. These stereotypes are real and happen every day.
Kaepernick explained publicly about his protest after the 49ers finished a preseason game against Green Bay on Aug. 27, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
I assume those “people getting paid leave” he’s talking about are police officers, or am I wrong? The recent police shootings not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Kaepernick’s hometown), and other areas of the country have sparked widespread protest, including the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
In July, the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001, claimed the lives of five officers by a sniper ambush during a peaceful protest in Dallas.
By sitting during the national anthem, Kaepernick is dishonoring those officers who gave their lives to protect the very people protesting against them. I wonder if he’s thought about his “protest” from that perspective.
On Saturday, just hours before Chip Kelly announced Blaine Gabbert will be the No. 1 quarterback entering Week 1 for the 49ers, and Kaepernick as the primary backup, the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association threatened to not patrol home games at Levi’s Stadium if the NFL doesn’t take action against Kaepernick.
The 49ers are scheduled to host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football as part of a national television doubleheader to kickoff the NFL season Monday, Sept. 12.
Adding fuel to the fire, Kaepernick was photographed earlier this week wearing socks that displayed cartoon pigs wearing police hats at practice.
That didn’t go over well with members of the SCPOA after the pictures of Kaepernick’s socks were broadcast nationally.
San Francisco’s statement about the Kaepernick situation said: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
That statement oozes political correctness, but what are the 49ers to do, cut him? Yeah, that wouldn’t go over well.
In the world we live in today, everything is scrutinized publicly thanks to the social media era. There’s nothing wrong with Kaepernick standing up for what he believes in, but I have a big problem with how he’s doing it.
Refusing to stand for the national anthem is like spitting on the very graves of those who gave their lives for this country. And those who fought so a 6-foot-4 football player could take his talents to the University of Nevada, get drafted into the NFL for gobs of money and then throw a tantrum because the world has problems, are turning in their graves.
Kaepernick’s reaction to the people of San Diego booing him relentlessly Thursday night included a statement from him saying it is a “misunderstanding.” Really? I don’t think so.
After the game Thursday, Kaepernick announced he would donate $1 million to groups that help people affected by the issues he is trying to spotlight, such as racial inequality and police brutality.
That’s a good step in the right direction, Mr. Kaepernick, but not “stepping up” to honor the country that has given you everything and asked for nothing is the biggest fumble in NFL history.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.