In the sports world this is very true. People argue about who between Lebron James and the Golden State Warriors is the bigger hero or villain. But this is chump change when it comes to Colin Kaepernick.
Yes, the issue with Colin still rages on, so much that Wolf Blitzer should probably create another "Situation Room" to editorialize on this unfortunate circumstance.
I call it unfortunate because it didn't need to come to this: Colin being unemployed in his career of choice - American professional football.
There are a lot of moving pieces to this, of which I will address a few. But the fact of the matter is Colin is fast becoming a living version of a martyr, using Donald Trump's popular refrain, the likes of which the world has seen before countless times...starting with a specific incident that occurred in the infancy of our country. Enter Crispus Attucks, the first African-American martyr..."the first to die, the first to defy". Or as Stevie Wonder famously sung, "First man to die for the flag we now hold high was a black man."
Here is a Black man who was the first American killed in the American Revolution. America had been revolting against the commonwealth of England, who made sure that King George III's presence was felt in every one of the thirteen colonies. The colonists chafed under this oppressive political, social, and economic weight from the king, especially the idea of "taxation without representation". This led to several attempts to stand up for themselves and "fight the power(s) that be". The hostility between the colonists and England eventually led to a March 5, 1770 showdown forever known as the Boston Massacre. British soldiers fired at colonists without reasonable cause or order, and the first to be shot and killed was 47-or-so-year-old Attucks. Ironically, Attucks was buried along with the other 4 men who died...who happened to be White.
James Neyland in his book, Crispus Attucks: Patriot, wrote about his lasting historical significance:
He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America. (emphasis added)But Neyland also added this note:
...Popular legend portrays him as a hero - indeed, the first real American hero - yet scholarly historians frequently attempt to portray him as a villain, minimizing his contribution to history in favor of the leaders of the American Revolution...After his murder (because that's what it was), there was still the running debate on whether Attucks was a hero and patriot, or a "rabble-rousing villain". Even John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. President), while acting as public defender for the British solders, "reviled the 'mad behavior' of Attucks, 'whose very looks was enough to terrify any person.'" (Sounds like I-feared-for-my-life language, but I digress...)
Nevertheless, the poet John Boyle O'Reilly memorialized Attucks in verse when a monument was erected for him in Boston Common:
And to honor Crispus Attucks who was the leader and voice that day: The first to defy, and the first to die...Call it riot or revolution, or mob or crowd as you may, such deaths have been seeds of nations, such lives shall be honored for aye...(emphasis added)Even the notorious Rush Limbaugh couldn't argue this one down.
|The Crispus Attucks Monument in Boston Common, Boston, MA.|
Because that's what's happening. Many took and still take issue with Colin's refusal to "shut up and play" as though his last name was Bojangles instead of Kaepernick. I mean he really has some nerve. NFL football is supposed to be a respite and escape from "de troubles of dis world". But the fact is the sports world was heavily politicized WAY before the color barrier was broken in ANY sport. This is not a "chicken or egg" debate, nor is it an unwelcome seeping of race into the pristine vacuum of professional athletics. Whenever you have the likes of a Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis or an Avery Brundage at the helm of a sports conglomerate or megalopoly, be it national or global, you're going to find race sitting as a charter member of their board of directors.
The inescapable result is the absence of moral courage that exposes the historical sports record as well as transcends it. It also results in the violation of "moral" labor laws. Allow me to break it down...
In any other sector of labor or employment generally protected by the U.S. government (because the government can't safeguard it all), what is happening to Colin would be illegal. Someone who is more than qualified to be hired for a position is getting passed over by other less than qualified or accomplished individuals by several entities organized under a collective umbrella. Balanced, rationally-thinking individuals call that collusion, even if there wasn't an NFL owners' meeting about it. (Which makes me wonder where the NFL Players' Association is in all of this.)
You know what else balanced, rationally-thinking individuals call that? The "D" word. Discrimination.
|I guess the Indianapolis Colts felt Kap couldn't do any better than 0 TD, 4 sacks, and a QB rating of 6.3...which was the best that Scott Tolzien could do.|
The point is this: when one group wielding power and absolute control freezes out another group who is perennially being disenfranchised for an unjust or illogical reason, that's discrimination. When that happens, be sure that Crispus is about to undergo a resurrection...or rather resurfacing. Over 40 years ago, he reappeared in the form of Curt Flood. This time, he comes in the person of Colin Kaepernick.
Well, the NFL owners have a right to "hire" whomever they choose to be on their team, one might say. That's not an arguable point. Of COURSE they have that right. But even that right should have a moral line to be respected and upheld. Like when a quarterback who led his team seconds away from a Super Bowl win and one play away from another second Super Bowl appearance gets continuously passed over by every NFL team for journeymen football spinners who will likely never start a regular preseason NFL game of any significance. Not to mention names, but a good number of them were never even drafted and wish they had some of what Kap has in his skill set.
Anyone who argues that he may not fit a particular offensive system should have their qualifications checked too. Because coaches always advocate that they want the best players on the field. When drafting players, if they can't get the best player at their position they default to the best available player remaining on the board regardless of position. And with the failure of a team's front office and coaching staff to "coach 'em up" - put a talented player in the best position to succeed, surround that player with the best talent, and make sure their philosophic strategy emphasizes that player's strengths and minimizes his weaknesses - you have to wonder if the issue is with the coach and not the player. Jim Harbaugh did it successfully...the other coaches could not. And Kap remains the fall guy...no pun intended.
So it's rather hypocritical for NFL owners to suggest, imply, or tell their coaching staff (hello, Baltimore Ravens) not to bother asking to explore having Kaep in for a tryout because he may be a distraction that will be a detriment to their bottom line: dollar bills y'all. But their bottom line is compromised if they are trying to win games with a less-talented roster. So it presents a dilemma that we are seeing now. Other players are choosing not to cross the moral line but rather honor it in their own protests during the national anthem...and in effect, give credibility to Colin Kaepernick's stance and talent credibility in the league.
Yet players who should probably keep quiet for fear of having their dirty laundry re-aired (see McCoy, Lesean) are clamoring about Kap being a distraction if he did sign with a team. It's surprising how some players feel that standing up for delayed justice for their own ethnicity is a distraction. That's why Black players like Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett - and now even White players like Chris Long - are necessary on the sidelines and the field to make sure the scales don't tip over in the wrong direction.
In other words, the players are needed now to put things back into perspective for a certain fan segment, who seemingly want to pretend that what happens outside of the stadium should stay outside of the stadium. And what happens inside of the stadium needs to remain as Kaepernick-free as possible. The only race they are concerned about is how many times their beloved team races to break the plane of the goal line. Everything else in the real lives of the players must wait...which sadly is just another form of "justice delayed" becoming "justice denied".
Here's a word to this fan: You can't press the pause button on the race issue. It will eventually find its way into everything American. And the only way to escape it is to meet it head-on with the goal of "killing it dead". Otherwise, another modern-day Crispus Attucks is going to rise up and display a form of authentic American patriotism you can't shout down from the bleachers.
So if you're looking for a break from it, you are a lot too late.
Neyland, James. Crispus Attucks: Patriot (Black American Series). Los Angeles: Holloway House Publishing Company, 1995.
Ford, James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year: A Poetical Epitome of the World’s History. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1902. New York: Bartleby.com, 2011.