OPINION: What Has Colin Kaepernick Really Sacrificed?

Chris Arps | Member, Project 21

Another opening NFL weekend is over, leaving me ambivalent about another upcoming season.

Admittedly, part of it stems from the Rams being yanked from my hometown and sent back to Los Angeles. But my ambivalence mostly comes from NFL players still taking a knee during the national anthem and disrespecting the American flag — even if unintentionally. 

Social obligations kept me from watching last Sunday, but I didn’t even try to sneak a peek on my phone. I suspect my viewing habits this season will match the same pattern as the last two years. I’ll watch and follow my favorite team — the Dallas Cowboys — but not really care about the rest. Maybe I’ll get more interested during the playoff run and Super Bowl.

With ratings down for opening weekend, I suspect many NFL fans are just like me.

The political left has mischaracterized the outrage fans have displayed towards Colin Kaepernick and kneeling players as “un-American” and that their outrage infringes on their First Amendment rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In my view, fans believe it is disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem. We don’t want to see or hear someone’s political speech or opinions. We want to escape for a few hours to watch great athletes entertain us. Especially when we’ve paid a lot of money to watch.

I don’t know many jobs in America where you can protest societal grievances on your employer’s premises and time. I also don’t know many jobs where your employer has to allow you to negatively affect their financial bottom line. 

Kaepernick and any NFL player have the right to express their First Amendment rights on their own time with their own resources. That’s the rub for so many of us content to miss the games.

It saddens me to see a game that I loved and played passionately as a youth used as a political football (no pun intended) to advance an agenda telling me that scores of unarmed black men are being gunned down by rogue white police officers. In fact, police shootings are a statistical rarity. According to a recent Washington Post study:

The number of deadly police shootings of unarmed people has generally declined since 2015 even as the tally of fatal shootings by law enforcement is on pace to hit nearly 1,000 for the fourth year in a row… Fatal shootings of unarmed black men — such as the high-profile case in March of Stephon Clark of Sacramento — are among the kinds of killings that have fallen. Criminologists said the downturn in the number of cases and their analysis of the data indicate that evidence of racial bias by police who shoot and kill unarmed blacks has also declined but not disappeared.

But leftists have turned protest, once a tool of the truly powerless to get the attention of the powerful, into the first resort for anything they are unhappy about or don’t agree with.

Don’t like the outcome of an election? Protest! Don’t like the outcome of a jury verdict? Protest! Don’t like the fact you lost your job as a starting quarterback because you sucked? Protest! 

Eventually, a “Chicken Little” or “Boy Who Cried Wolf” effect kicks in, and protesting loses its potency. Noted black conservative Shelby Steele noted a misperception by many African-Americans of continued systematically oppressed:

The breaking news here is precisely that, that our oppression is over. It’s just over. We can’t organize ourselves any longer fighting against a society that doesn’t want us to be free. Society today wants us to be free. Maybe they love us, maybe they don’t, but they want us to be free, and that is a revolutionary change, a transformation probably only possible in the United States, but we are now free. The problem that we have as blacks, as minorities, is what I call the shock of freedom.

It’s unfortunate that Nike decided — in the name of the almighty dollar — to divide instead of bring our country together. After three years of protests, and now a multi-million dollar ad campaign, I still don’t know what Kaepernick really sacrificed.

Christopher Arps is a member of the Project 21 black leadership network.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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