Editorials

On Colin Kaepernick’s weird one-man sit-in

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He again refused to stand during the national anthem.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He again refused to stand during the national anthem. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Sometimes taking a stand against injustice requires sitting down. And sometimes, it requires doing more. Colin Kaepernick has it half right.

The 49ers quarterback has incensed fans by refusing to stand for the national anthem. While other NFL players clambered to their feet to hold their hands to their hearts on Friday, Kaepernick remained on the bench next to the Gatorade buckets.

It was the third preseason game in a row – though the only one when he was in uniform – that Kaepernick stayed glued to his seat.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told the NFL Network. “To me, this is bigger than football ... There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

That didn’t go over well with some fans, who burned his jersey, or Republican nominee Donald Trump, who suggested Kaepernick “find a country that works better for him.” Yet the quarterback, who is already on thin ice with the 49ers, remains unrepentant.

“When there’s significant change – and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to – I’ll stand,” he said Sunday.

Coming from Kaepernick, the biracial, tattooed quarterback from Turlock, this kind of passion might seem a bit strange. After all, this is the 28-year-old known for selfish social media flubs, not selfless social media activism. Yet he’s been on a tear lately, tweeting nonstop about police brutality against people of color.

The problem isn’t his cause. The problem is the weird way he chose to fight for it. Without an initial explanation, his message has been lost in translation.

There are other, better, certainly clearer ways to fight injustice. NBA stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade showed how last month, when during the ESPYs, they called on athletes “to speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence and, most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources.”

Kaepernick does some of this already. His support for Camp Taylor, a getaway for kids with heart disease, is admirable. But given his wealth and fame, he could attend Black Lives Matter rallies, bail protesters out of jail or donate to a legal defense fund.

He could become a true activist – and he should. Sitting down during the national anthem is powerfully controversial, but it’s just one act. Fixing injustice takes more.

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