In hindsight, Colin Kaepernick probably should have just held a press conference.
That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after a week of listening to arguments about both the 49ers quarterback’s choice to sit during the Star-Spangled Banner and his call to address multiple social issues in the United States.
Because there were too much talk of the former and not enough of the latter.
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This is not meant to undermine his points further but rather to hopefully close the door on the many debates that weren’t really about his point of view at all.
While there were concerns about how he would be received in San Diego, no incidents appear to have occurred other than his being booed when he took the field.
Kaepernick’s choice to alter his protest after talking to veteran Nate Boyer, the former Texas long snapper who tried out for the NFL last year, is also noteworthy, as is Boyer’s choice to stand with Kaepernick as the 49ers quarterback kneeled during the anthem in San Diego instead of sitting on the bench as he had done before.
Their actions show both solidarity and flexibility and should be commended.
Over the previous week, many people were more concerned with the protest than his message, and that’s as much Kaepernick’s fault as it is anyone else’s. That doesn’t invalidate the points he has tried to explain in interviews, but it has muddled the expression of the message.
As it turns out, a lot of people are really, really concerned with treatment of the flag and the national anthem. That’s how we get long-time athlete activist Jim Brown saying he wouldn’t have done what Kaepernick did even though he supports his ideas.
The flag and anthem represent different things to different people, but many associate them with the military, not police.
That’s important because police brutality appears to be Kaepernick’s main concern.
Kaepernick’s choice of protest and initial explanation of it resulted in mixed, confusing messages.
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The flag and the anthem are national symbols. The military is a federal organization. Police departments are not.
The broad brush Kapernick used in his initial comments about oppression combined with the national symbols involved implied he had an issue with the governance of the country overall. That’s despite the federal government being a diverse, popularly elected body that has passed many laws designed to promote diversity and help minorities for decades.
Police forces are local organizations. They are different from town to town, city to city, county to county and state to state. Certainly there have been incidents that rightfully upset people (of all races) and make it fair to call into question training methods and even the motivations of the officers who acted, but they’re not really attributable to the federal government and certainly not to the military.
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So using federal symbols to protest them never really made much sense.
Those symbols represent our country as a whole, including the good and the bad of our present and our past.
Therefore that people would take his act as a repudiation of the entire nation shouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s the most natural first impression, and one his scant comments after game three of the preseason fostered further.
As a well-known player at the most public position on a team in the country’s most popular sports league, he could have called a press conference any time he wanted. Or just called someone over to his locker after practice. Or released a video on YouTube or Twitter. Or penned something for The Players Tribune.
Then it would have been much easier to focus on his words rather than his methods, and a lot of time debating the latter could have been avoided.
And less time fighting over symbols leaves more time for discussing his words, which I’m assuming was the goal all along.
Maybe now we can do that.