If Tebow Could Pray, Why Can’t Kaepernick Play?

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It’s infuriating that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed. 


Even though the conversation about Colin Kaepernick has been exhausted ad nauseam, it remains heavy on my mind. There’s no denying that Kaepernick is being blackballed by the predominately Trump-loving, white- owned NFL.

He’s being punished for protesting during the National Anthem – by kneeling – in solidarity with victims (mostly unarmed black men) of police brutality.

Courtesy: FiveThirtyEight

Kaepernick, Morals, and the NFL

Normally, I support private companies. But anyone with an honest bone in their body knows that the NFL isn’t a revered organization. Here’s why.

1. The NFL has faced a huge backlash as stories pour out about players suffering from severe brain injuries, among other debilitating physical ailments. For years the NFL allegedly knew there were issues, but it decided to look the other way. Why? Pro football is a cash cow and profits trump everything. Never mind the dedication, heart, and loyalty that NFL players pour into the organization. The NFL cared not for them, but for their bottom line.

2. The Baltimore Ravens tried to hide the fact that Ray Rice had physically assaulted his girlfriend (and now wife). Thankfully, the security video of the altercation was released to the press. Even after the revelation, the Ravens barely wanted to punish Rice. Again, profits trump everything.

3. A lesser offense is punishing players for dancing on the field, mostly for celebrating a score. Yet, the NFL hesitated to punish QB Tom Bradey and the Patriots for possibly deflating balls during the Super Bowl. The League didn’t act until there was public outrage.

Freedom, But Only When Permitted

It’s infuriating that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed. I mean, really, what crime did he commit? Was he caught with illegal contraband? Was he accused of committing domestic violence? Did he deflate footballs during the Super Bowl? Did he shoot himself up with steroids? Is he a morbid racist? Does he hate gay people?

Courtesy: SB Nation

Nope. None of those things.

Instead, Colin Kaepernick sat — then, later kneeled — during the National Anthem. His silent protest was against police brutality in the face of an exhausting list of unarmed black men and women, including Latinos, who have been killed.

And what was the justice for those deaths? Little, if any. The police aren’t even charged most of the time, much less found guilty, when they are indicted.

I’m not going to get into arguments over the semantics of #BlackLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter. That’s far too heated of a subject and I’m just too tired arguing.

I lean towards to the message of BLM, but I also don’t disregard the hard job that cops have to do in this country. However, I will defend Colin Kaepernick’s right to sit, kneel, or raise the Black Power fist during the national anthem.

The last time I checked the First Amendment of the Constitution applied to all citizens–undocumented immigrants too. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The National Anthem and Football

And while I’m at it, let me comment about freedom of expression in the NFL. The League doesn’t have a policy that requires players stand during the National Anthem. What the League does have is this: “Players are encouraged, but not required, to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

And the 49ers, the former home of Kaepernick, state: “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 to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Put the two together and it’s clear that Kaepernick’s blackballing is, in a word. bollocks!

Military Defends Kap

To boot, Kaepernick didn’t intend to disrespect the military, as many have accused him of doing. In fact, there’s an alternative perspective on the military response to Kaepernick’s stance. Paul Szoldra had this to say in an article published in Business Insider: “Colin Kaepernick is getting a ton of support from veterans.”

Courtesy: USA Today

Evidence can be found in tweets posted to #VeteransforKaepernick. Examples include

“When I enlisted I swore to defend the Constitution- including the 1st amendment (not to defend the flag). 

“I may not agree with Kaepernick. But I agree that I defended everyone’s freedom of speech. 

The National Anthem isn’t their antebellum. It was written by a man with racist tendencies. Besides, it wasn’t until 2009 that players entered the field prior to the national anthem. It’s fiction to say that players with hands over heart during the Anthem is an NFL tradition.

Kaepernick’s Stats

Conservatives shocked by military members’ defense of Kaepernick had to move on to another logic to keep Kaepernick off the field. That logic? “He’s the worst football player in history.”

Yes, sports pundits will attest to the fact that Kaepernick’s last few seasons haven’t been good. But to conclude that he’s one of the worst QB’s is, well, just plain false. Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl in 2013 (correction from original submission) and he’s considered to be one of the top 50 QB’s in the League.

Courtesy: Pro Football Focus

 

Yet–and this is the key point–far worse players were signed this season. For example, Shaun King made that point via Twitter when he compared Kaepernick to Josh McCown: “Today @nyjets QB Josh McCown had 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions with a 29.4 QB rating. But Kaepernick is unemployed?” King continued: “These are the facts. Kaepernick: 16 TD’s 4 INT’s 90.7 QBR (vs.) McCown 6 TD’s 6 INT’s 72.3 QBR. This isn’t about football and you know it.”

When Tim Tebow was criticized for praying, many came to his defense, myself included (even though I’m no Tebow fan). Tebow had every right to wear his Christianity on his sleeve–publicly, privately, or otherwise. Our rights as Americans don’t stop at our employer’s door.

In reality, though, the NFL doesn’t care about patriotism. It cares about money and maintaining its white base. Never mind that 80% of the black population loves football and that 70% of its players are black (corrected from original submission). The NFL chooses to ignore those facts because white supremacy thrives in this country still–and shamefully so.

NFL ownership is composed of white people. If one of the players has offended them, that player will be punished, especially if he’s a POC (person of color). In America, nothing offends some whites more than an “uppity black man,” especially one that defends his people and speaks out on injustice.

The irony is that speaking out on issues dear to our hearts is something other countries envy. 

Final Thoughts

People can hate Kaepernick all they want. I take no issue with that–although I disagree. But people also need to get real. Plenty of fans attending games don’t stand during the anthem. Do you call them out for “disrespecting” the military and country? I bet not.

I hope the NFL believes that blackballing Kaepernick is worth it. Personally, I would have chosen defending the Constitution and my employee rights.

But that’s just me.

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About Quiana Fulton

Fulton is a freelance writer who covers politics, sports, and pop culture. Her writings have appeared in The Federalists, The Grio, Roanoke Times, Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Post. She loves F1, NASCAR, The Washington Nationals, and Fishing! She binges on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Princes’ music. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from American Military University.



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Comments (14)

    Quiana Fulton wrote (09/12/17 - 11:28:32AM)

    Corrections: Colin played in the 2013 Super Bowl, not 2012. Also, only 70% of the players are black, not 80%.

    – Quiana Fulton

    James s wrote (09/12/17 - 1:22:40PM)

    Look. He has the right to do whatever he wants in protest of whatever he likes. It’s honestly not even a big deal anymore. Some players stand. Some kneel. Some kinda go in between. The one thing they have in common tho is that they are currently employed by their respective NFL football teams. Teams owned by people or groups who payed BILLIONS to own and operate them. That afford them the right to employ whomever they want or not do so for whatever reasons they want. One thing Kaepernick and someone like Brady do not have in common is talent. No matter what, that is the final measuring stick. If kap was great, he would be playing and be treated like the over privileged big shot he thinks he is. He, however, is not. Very vanilla QB. If he wants to be employed then perhaps he should do like the rest of us do when we want a good job: be what your employer wants. Not a lightning rod for negativity. Image is a huge part of being an elite member of an elite fraternity of athletes. He came from privilege all his life. Always used to getting his way regardless of his behavior. Now if he wants a job in the NFL he can either do it their way or continue being a knucklehead and play some arena ball

    Quiana Fulton wrote (09/12/17 - 1:54:47PM)

    Hi James,

    Colin is biracial and grew up in an all white neighborhood where he faced discrimination. I wouldn’t call that living a privileged life. Also, check Kap’s stats, he one of the better QB in the league – non-debatable.

    The NFL, which is a predominately white owned organization is blackballing Kap because of his stance. They even said as much. Also, the last I checked this is America where people have freedom of speech. Do you really want to live in a country where companies own every little part of you. That’s the slippery slope we’re turning into, and that’s frightening.

    Malik Jackson wrote (09/12/17 - 9:17:55PM)

    The first amendment only applies to government censorship. The government cannot interfere with a citizen’s freedom of speech or expression. In this case, the government isn’t doing anything. If Kaepernick worked at the DOD, they’d have a really hard time firing him.

    The NFL is making a business decision. They’re saying that Kaepernick isn’t good enough to justify the controversy and distraction for the team that he brings. If he had Brady-level stats and was bringing home championships the situation would probably be much different. Ultimately, he’s a sub-average employee who has made himself more trouble than he’s worth.

    When he says something, he has to accept the reactions that come from saying it. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.

    James s wrote (09/13/17 - 4:00:09PM)

    You are correct sir. Numbers are the bottom line. his resume speaks for itself. At one time in his career he was a better than average QB. His early carreer numbers prove that. His recent numbers prove the opposite though and as we all know, the NFL is all about what you’ve done lately. If not, then Chad Johnson, terell Davis and Randy Moss would all still be employed by the NFL. In kaeps last season as a starter, in 2016, he started 11 games. His record in those games was 10 losses and 1 win. His QBR was 55.2. 2015 his QBR was 47. Early in his carreer when he was a good QB his QBR was 71.7 in 2011, 76.9 in 2012, 69.7 in 2013 and 67.5 in 2014. HUGE drop off from those numbers to the last 2 years of his active carreer. Another thing to look at with Kaepernick is that he is not a “traditional” style QB. If he was a 23 year old stud fresh out of college, an NFL team could design an offense around his unique style which would be more of a read option style. As is, however, he is a 29 year old QB who cannot stay in the pocket. In a traditional offense, most of the passing plays are designed to be ran from the pocket. At his age and the fact that he will come with a ton of baggage, no team would bring him in to instantly take the reigns as their starting QB. Therefore he would be employed as a backup. I’m sure most teams would want a backup who would not be the center of controversy and they would want a versatile guy who could more easily fit into their existing system.

    I’m not saying he isn’t a talented athlete. He was, for a short period of time, a really good starter. He, like most every other run first QB, had a very exciting, productive and unfortunately, short period of peak performance. He is not alone either. Micheal Vick at one time was the best football player on the planet in my opinion. Where is RG3 now? There are exception of course and Vick did still have a nice long carreer. No one ‘deserves’ a job in the NFL though. He like the rest of us has to earn a good job. NFL QB is a pretty good gig. If I showed my ass on national TV and acted contrary to how my boss or potential employer expected me to act, I would not think I was being “blackballed” because I didn’t get the job I think I deserve. Even if I believed I’m the most skilled applicant. Or in his case – skilled enough??

    As far as freedom of speech goes: he and everyone else who believes as he believes has every right to express those beliefs. No one is stopping him. No NFL owner is preventing him from doing so. He can sit, stand, crouch, squat, skip, jump, or flail around like a bafoon every time he hears the national anthem if he wants. There is no constitutional right, however, that ensures him a national stage to do so. There is no condition that requires anyone to employ him. I maintain that if he had Tom Brady’s numbers in 2016, he would be able to play football for whatever team he wants. In the end no one really cares along as you win and put up big numbers.

    James s wrote (09/13/17 - 4:15:43PM)

    Sorry. Meant ma’am. Not sir. I’d like to know where you get this inside information about kaeps upbringing though. He was adopted by loving parents as an infant. He grew up in nice homes in nice neighborhoods. While he wasn’t what most would consider rich, he certainly wasn’t poor. He was an outstanding multiple sport athlete all through school. While I’m sure he has experienced racism as we all have, I seriously doubt that as the king of the school, he had it tuff. I don’t know this for sure but every big time athlete in every school I have ever seen has never been anything other than “the man”. Especially in high school. I’m sure you would agree. Let’s not pretend like he has had a tough go of it growing up. From what I’ve seen from him in countless interviews he would back me up on this point.

    Quiana wrote (09/13/17 - 4:31:01PM)

    His James,

    Colin Kaepenick has spoken about the racism he faced during his childhood and adult life – this is public record. Being raised in a loving home doesn’t protect you from the harsh realities of the world. He’s also spoken on how hard it was being raised in a predominately white town, as the only POC.

    Quiana wrote (09/13/17 - 4:42:28PM)

    Hi James,

    The NFL is blackballing Kaepernick because they don’t like his politics, it has nothing to do with their bottom line which has been failing for years due to their crappy morals. Also, private companies aren’t immune to the Constitution and civil rights laws.

    Several coaches stated publically they were interested in Colin, even after the protest but said their hands were tied by corporate heads.

    1. http://ninerswire.usatoday.com/2017/03/17/report-some-nfl-executives-genuinely-hate-colin-kaepernick/

    2. http://www.salon.com/2017/08/29/stop-saying-the-nfl-cant-be-racist-because-70-percent-of-the-players-are-black/

    3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/racism-misogyny-homophobia-and-the-kaepernick-boycott_us_598cc485e4b0caa1687a5eb3

    Also, here are Colin’s states: http://www.nfl.com/player/colinkaepernick/2495186/careerstats

    Quiana wrote (09/13/17 - 4:47:23PM)

    Malik,

    NFL made a racist decision to not resign Colin Kaepernick, and you know it. Check his stats:

    http://www.nfl.com/player/colinkaepernick/2495186/careerstats

    I’m pretty sure domestic violence, drugs, dog fighting, and rape are worse for the bottom line, not protesting. Also, most NFL owners each donated $1 million to Trump and Trump all but alluded he would make their life hell if they singed Colin again.

    1. https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/03/22/colin-kaepernick-donald-trump

    2. http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/03/donald-trump-credit-colin-kaepernick-free-agency-louisville-nfl-owners-tweet-anthem-protest

    3. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/ct-colin-kaepernick-donald-trump-tweets-20170321-story.html

    4. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/20/politics/donald-trump-colin-kaepernick/index.html

    Quiana wrote (09/13/17 - 4:50:13PM)

    CC: James & Malik:

    “Colin Kaepernick Is Actually Better Than Many of the NFL’s First and Second-String Quarterbacks,” via Complex: http://www.complex.com/sports/2017/08/kaepernick-is-better-than-most-quarterbacks/

    Also: http://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/Richard-Sherman-lists-5-QBs-who-are-worse-than-11734513.php

    Russ Pettifer wrote (09/17/17 - 9:56:07PM)

    oh, and your having changed the reason for kaepernick sitting out is not “blacks being killed by white cops” as you stated. the original reason reported widely last year was “racial injustice”…as much as you’d like to shift the focus that isn’t what kaepernick identified as the issue.

    stick to sports.

    Ellen Gooding wrote (09/18/17 - 9:53:52AM)

    It is beyond normal understanding that the NFL glorifies Michael Vick and continues to let numerous players who abuse their wives and girlfriends yet persecutes Colin Kaepernick for kneeling in protest of police abuse. Get some morals NFL!!!

    Russ Pettifer wrote (09/18/17 - 9:55:34AM)

    You dive deep into politics yet call yourself a “”sports column”? tell you what – why don’t you do a bit of research about “IN SOLIDARITY WITH VICTIMS (MOSTLY UNARMED BLACK MEN) OF POLICE BRUTALITY”. well, guess what – white men are shot by police at a rate twice that of black men, so scratch that piece of bullshit. second, “unarmed” does not mean “not dangerous” but do give the numbers. the stats are available – use google, it’s there for everyone. third, look into your stats for the #1 killer of young black males (hint: it isn’t white cops) or might you only be interested in sensationalism and not accuracy? fourth, you want to promote “social justice” then start dealing with the source of the black “problem” – the “victim mentality” that is pervasive and like a cancer… but stick to sports. please.

    Arthur Kittler wrote (09/18/17 - 3:48:31PM)

    Great article, 100% spot on!! I’m in my 70s and refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag and never get any grief for it. Participating in any of these rituals is a personal decision and no one else’s business. I have more respect for people who stand up for what they believe in than I do for people who participate because it’s “the right thing to do.” Just like kneeling in church doesn’t make someone a better christian, standing for a song doesn’t make one more of a patriot.