The Ghost of Colin Kaepernick, Part III


I’ve kept tabs on the plight of Colin Kaepernick ever since he decided to kneel during the National Anthem during a preseason game in 2016. First I wrote about why it’s so important that athletes use their platforms to further social progress, then about a year later I talked about how NFL owners were blackballing him, and finally a few months ago I went on about the nonsense and backwardness of the NFL changing its Anthem policy for the upcoming football season. (In July a “freeze” was put on the Anthem rules.)

Fucking hell. Let’s do it again:

According to the Associated Press, last Thursday an arbitrator sent Kaepernick’s grievance against the NFL to court, “denying the league’s request to throw out the quarterback’s claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests of social injustice.”

Kaepernick originally sued the NFL in October, 2017, seeking damages commensurate to what he would have earned had he continued playing. To this point that figure isn’t clear, since apparently compensatory and punitive damages are involved, and the punitive damages are contingent on how much compensation would be rewarded. Since law isn’t my specialty, I would recommend this SI article that dives deeper in that realm and explains it better than I can.

“Collusion” has been a word at the forefront of the national dialogue since Donald Trump got elected, but since Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL is a legitimate collusion case I figure to define it here:

Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order
to cheat or deceive others.

To win the case in court, Colin Kaepernick’s legal team will have to prove that NFL owners worked together to keep him out of the league. That is obviously not the same as 32 owners who chose individually not to sign him. That is the distinction.

I think it’s probably going to be a tricky battle to win, but only because it isn’t wise to bet against the billionaires. I can’t imagine how they, with all their handlers and lawyers, could be stupid enough to leave behind loose ends that could potentially weaken their wallets. I don’t doubt that a blackball did occur, or that collusion among the owners took place, but I would not be willing to bet that Kaepernick’s legal team will be able to prove in court anything beyond speculation.

From my novice legal brain the key to everything would be a coach or executive stepping forward in good conscience. Per the AP (from the article in the third paragraph of this post): “some owners, coaches and team executives will be called to testify during the season, a situation the league hoped to avoid. [Emphasis mine.]” I can only grasp for positive signs where I can find them, and to me anything that makes the League sweat is better than nothing.

But here again, to assume a coach or front office person would dime out the owner paying his handsome salary is to bet against the billionaires. It’s to naively assume that conversations did not take place, and that understandings were not reached, between owners, executives, and coaches, during the time of Kaepernick’s free agency. And that they will continue not to take place, and continue to not be reached, in the days leading up to the trial (if a settlement isn’t agreed upon beforehand).

I don’t find that to be even a little bit conspiratorial to posit, since anyone could jump without any effort to a memory where they made an agreement in private with another person, or multiple persons, to get a story straight for some authority figure — whether it was a cop, a teacher, or their parents. Taking measures to avoid getting caught is a basic survival instinct.

And regular people, like you and me, have done and do such things without the benefit of billions of dollars to float for compliance. If I need someone to keep a secret, I don’t have the caliber of hush money that NFL owners do. I don’t have a team in my ear advising me constantly on what measures are correct and incorrect, acceptable and unacceptable. And finally, I don’t have a firm of lawyers on retainer. So if you combine basic survival instincts with piles upon piles of cash, I can’t help but like your chances.

Colin Kaepernick is the clear underdog in this fight, a guy bucking the billionaire establishment and in the process drawing the ire of the President of the United States. In summary: He has all the right enemies.

Still as recently as September of 2017 only 30% of Americans supported Kaepnick’s protest, and “nearly a third” said they would sign him if they owned an NFL team. That doesn’t, to me, seem like very many people. I suppose everyone has their reasons, but I can’t shake the feeling that a strong contingency of people either (a) aren’t familiar with what the First Amendment means, or (b) that they aren’t clear about what exactly the protest represented. (Or both.)

There’s just something about the American flag that still gives people a hard-on. Even though the idea that separates America from much of the world is free speech, and the ability to protest or demonstrate without getting thrown in jail or killed, it’s apparent that using the actual American Flag in any way to make your point is sacrilege.

I consider myself a purist when it comes to free speech, meaning I am for it across the board. The way I feel about Colin Kaepernick protesting for an honorable cause is the same as I feel about some Neo-Nazis who gather up like 12 people to march in support of hate. The reason, or theory, behind that is that the good ideas will ultimately win out, and the bad ideas will get flushed away. And it is in no way controversial to believe that equality for black people is an idea that will eventually win, and that the ideas of Neo-Nazis will eventually lose. Again, that is.

Of course in a situation where I do actually agree with the cause, I tend to simply point out the hypocrisy from the other side. Not only does Colin Kaepernick have the data on his side vis-a-vis police brutality, but he also has the First Amendment behind him. He even consulted a green beret about what was the proper way to show respect during the protest. This wasn’t merely some jagoff who decided to say Fuck The Police for some attention. Kaepernick clearly put thought and effort into what exactly he wanted to protest, and how exactly he wanted to get that message across.

Nike Campaign

Kaepernick is the face of a new Nike campaign celebrating 30 years of “Just Do It,” which features the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Unsurprisingly, the conservative anti-protest crowd are losing their minds over this new ad, starting Twitter hashtags to boycott Nike and even burning and cutting up various Nike gear. Setting aside the fact that Nike hardly cares if people are destroying items that have already been paid for, the irony is just too delicious to ignore: The same people who constantly decry liberals for being “snowflakes” are the ones regularly engaging — as with the war on Christmas, or the war on religion, or the war on white people — in the ultimate snowflake behavior.

With that said, while it’s positive that Kaepernick is getting paid it’s not as if Nike is some laudable corporation. As Nathan Bernhardt said on Twitter, “Nike will not be funding the revolution.” We are still talking about a company owned by an ultra-rich guy that is infamous for deploying sweatshop working conditions in third world countries. So it’s cool, and it’s kinda not cool at the same time.

That falls short of excusing how many conservatives all of a sudden care about double standards, since they are the ones always crying out that their free speech is being silenced on college campuses. You can’t criticize activists for shutting down Ben Shapiro or Milo Yiannopoulos while simultaneously supporting the NFL’s blackball of Colin Kaepernick. You are either for free speech or you are against it.

I think with most issues people are just partisan, devoid of any idealogical consistency. In a hypothetical world where some NFL player decided to kneel in support of the 2nd Amendment, or overturning Roe vs. Wade, conservatives would cheer it. If right-wing activists shut down a speech from a left-wing guest at Berkley, conservatives would cheer that, too.

Unfortunately, we live in a land where so many are against progress. I could cite all the relevant statistics on unarmed black people getting shot by police compared to white people, I could say that 30% of the U.S. population is black or brown yet they represent 60% of the U.S. prison population, I could talk about how American criminal justice is systemically racist, and go on and on and on.

And people would still ask: But why did he have to kneel during the National Anthem?

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