Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kaepernick’s sit-in: valid protest or waste of time?

It never ceases to amaze me how caught up the media and the general public get over things that seem ridiculously trivial to me. Lately, for example, an inordinate amount of attention is being paid to the fact that a second-string quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers has decided not to stand up during the playing of the national anthem to protest the state of race relations in our country.

I’m obviously in the minority in thinking that we have much more important things to concern ourselves with than Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest because both the talking heads in the media and common everyday folks can’t seem to stop talking about it. But since I’m here for your entertainment and not just to hear myself type, I’ll “give the people what they want” and throw in my two cents regarding the situation.

Right off the bat I have to say that Kaepernick has every right to sit during the national anthem, and no one should be threatening his life or hurling racial slurs at him because of it. This is America, not North Korea, and no one should be compelled to pay homage to national symbols or ceremonies unless they freely choose to do so. Those symbols and ceremonies lose all meaning if people are threatened or coerced into pretending to pay respect to them.

By the same token, if the 49ers wanted to cut ties with him over this issue, they should also be free to do so. (I doubt that they will, as they know he’d surely sue them over it and would probably win.) And if sponsors don’t want to hire him to hawk their products he has to be prepared to pay the price for standing up (or staying seated) for what he believes in.

That’s all well and good, but I’m sure your wondering what my opinion is on whether Kapaernick’s protest is a valid way to address racial discrimination. (If you weren’t wondering that, I’d have to wonder why you’re reading my opinion column.)

To evaluate the wisdom and effectiveness of Kaepernick’s protest, I think we should ask two questions about it:

1. Does it make sense and get his point across effectively?

2. Does it do anything to help improve the problem that is motivating his actions?

The first question is a little tricky to answer as it is pretty subjective. But personally I have a hard time seeing how refusing to honor the national anthem is related to problems in race relations in this country. The song represents the nation as a whole, so by disrespecting the song, Kaepernick is disrespecting the country as a whole. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because the nation, as an entity, is not discriminating against black people. We have a black president, and many other prominent government positions are filled by African Americans. We have numerous laws against discrimination based on race that apply to both the public and private sectors. This is not South Africa in the 1980s, and it’s not logical to contend that the nation as a whole is racist. His sit-in protest may be well-intentioned, but I think it is poorly focused.

Maybe the more important question is whether his protest will do anything to help to improve race relations in this country. I have racked my brains and I can’t come up with a scenario whereby some racist person who is about to commit some racist act pauses and decides to change his behavior because a backup quarterback in the NFL sits through the national anthem.

It seems very much like a poorly conceived and useless gesture that is more about bringing attention to Colin Kaepernick than to racial inequity. And that’s a shame because someone with his money and influence could do a lot of practical things to help improve the lives of people of color in this country.

But that would take money and hard work, and wouldn’t get his name in the papers the way his sit-in has. And so he sits there, and we waste time debating his childish antics because too often we are just as silly and misguided as he is.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.