As many of you know I used to be a 49ers fan. From the time I was 11 or 12 I was Red and Gold through and through. Brent was also a 49ers fan. It was our first shared team. We raised C to be a 49ers fan. We watched games, we bought the merchandise, we stuck with them through the horrible years where a win seemed impossible and reveled in the years where a win seemed inevitable. We were fans.
And I hated Kaepernick. Well maybe hate is too strong of a word. Let me think...no, I hated him. But not for the reasons you all think.
We, as a family, were all starting to get disillusioned with the team right about the time he came in. You all also know that I am a Jim Harbaugh fan. He's a Michigan man. He's passionate about perfection. He's compete or die. I love him the way only a fan can. If he's not your coach you hate him. Much like Pete Carroll; if he's your coach you think his enthusiasm is wonderful if he's not you think he's an annoying twerp. But at this time I was losing my patience with him as well. Because I was falling out of love with the team as a whole. And part of that was Kaepernick.
For those of you that don't know Kaepernick got his chance to start when Alex Smith got hurt. Then when Smith recovered Kaepernick kept the job. I thought that was shitty. Losing your job to injury is not generally done, if you can recover that is. So for Smith to not be allowed to come back and start again bugged me. Keep in mind the team went to the Super Bowl that year so the results were there. Harbaugh is a compete for your position at all times coach so it's not surprising, but it still bugged me. And again, part of why it bugged me was Kaepernick himself.
I thought he was a brat. He would kiss his own biceps for fucks sake. And not in an ironic winky face sort of way. In the off season that year he was photographed wearing a Dolphins hat and didn't understand why fans of the team he was quarterbacking would find that wrong. I've worn nothing but 49ers gears for decades and you YOU the quarterback for MY team are wearing ANOTHER team's gear? What is wrong with you? He was cocky and annoying and I didn't like him.
He wasn't the reason why I stopped being a fan though. That was the management. They took a position on "character." They would only hire players with good character. This is fabulous. Then they promptly ignored character if the player was good enough. So yeah, we care about character unless you are really good then we will look the other way if you beat your pregnant girlfriend or get caught, repeatedly, with drugs. And then, oh yeah, we are going to build a brand new stadium but don't worry, we will move it far away from San Francisco, put it at such a bad angle that the seats will be in full glaring sun, charge MUCH more for the seats, and oh yeah, put in a crappy field. So yay? It was all too much. And when they fired Harbaugh in a shady manner I was done.
And really done with professional football. I never picked up another NFL team. We watch a bit here and there. I'm always glad when the Lions win, but it's hard to be a ride or die fan of the Lions. They are more your cousin that you hope does well in life but you're pretty sure will never move out of your Aunt and Uncle's basement sort of team. But with no team to really feel a connection with I just don't watch, or care, much about professional football. And with all of the new and updated information about concussions and traumatic brain injury it's even getting harder to watch college football, and I love college football.
But anyway...back to Kaepernick.
I didn't like him. I thought he was a spoiled brat. I thought he was a cocky pain in the ass. And then he got Woke (as the kids are calling it these days). He had his bubble popped. His life of ease was peeled away and he looked at other people who look like him but haven't been given the opportunities that he did. From the stories around him he got woke because he started dating a woman who was woke and she opened his eyes to the rest of the world. It happens. We listen to the people that are important to us, and he listened to her.
Now most of this conjecture is just my take on his life. I obviously don't know the man but I've seen it with other people so I see it reflected in him. I always say there are no converted like the newly converted. It goes with anything. The newly born again Christians are on their own crusades to change everyone's minds. The newly disillusioned atheists are on their own mission to enlighten the world. The newly awakened vegans are militant about making murderers repent. The newly signed Amway salesperson is flabbergasted that you don't want to take control of your financial future!
So Kaepernick got newly woke and decided that he needed to make a statement. Like RIGHT NOW and BIG. So he sat. And when people noticed (and they didn't at first so the media helpfully pointed it out) and he was asked about it he said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." And people freaked the fuck out. They latched on to the "showing pride in a flag" part and paid no attention to the "oppresses black people" or "bodies in the street" part and suddenly this was about the flag and the fact that it represented the troops. What? The troops?
Okay, so anyway...on to the next part. After his protest went more public he met with Nat Boyer, a former Green Beret, who convinced him that kneeling in protest rather than just sitting was a better idea. That it was more respectful. Again, Kaepernick listened to someone whose opinion he respected, and he started to kneel. And people said, "Oh, that's great. Now we see that he really wants a discussion and we can move forward."
People saw no difference and called him nasty names, many of them racially charged, showing exactly what he was talking about and not getting the irony. People screamed about the troops and how if you don't stand for the flag you are disrespecting the troops! The troops, the troop, the troops!
“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States; against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States; and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I thought I would drop that in there because there are a surprising number of people who have never heard the enlistment oath, let alone taken it. I would love to have you show me where they are signing up to defend a flag. Spoiler alert, they aren't. And the flag does not represent them. And they don't fight for our flag. They fight for our Constitution. Which gives us the right to protest. So by protesting he isn't disrespecting the troops.
But this was never about the troops.
This was about what he was protesting.
It makes us (speaking in generalities as a white person) uncomfortable to have racism pointed out. Because I'm not a racist! It makes people who have LEO members in their family uncomfortable and angry to have anyone say that there are bad cops out there that are doing bad things because I'm not a bad cop! And so we deflect.
We say, he's a millionaire how dare he speak out! While also saying he should be spending his own money to make things better, which seems to me to be a little bit of double speak. If he shouldn't be concerned about social injustice because he's a millionaire why should he donate money to help fix things that he shouldn't be concerned about? And, oh by the way, he didn't just take a knee, he wrote a lot of checks. He is doing more than just pointing a finger and saying YOU fix this. He is saying, WE need to fix this.
We say, what does he know of racism he makes more than I do! Or, and this one slays me in the ignorance it betrays, He was raised by a white family, when was he oppressed? Okay, first off, you just answered your own question there. If the only way to avoid oppression is to be in the direct orbit of a white family then you KNOW there is a problem and you are just being obtuse. And because he makes money he can't be aware of others who don't have his advantages? Are you insane or blind?
I get it, it makes people uncomfortable to have to face these issues. And it is much easier to hide behind patriotism in your reasoning for why you are upset. It's complicated for people who really do think it's disrespectful not to stand. But again, instead of being upset about HOW he is protesting, why not listen to the WHY. If you want him to stand, help him get to a point where that pride is there. Where he doesn't feel that people who look like him are treated unequally just because they look like him.
My personal take is that I stand for the anthem. I stand because I do love my country. I don't stand because I think my country is perfect. Because I don't. I think we have some really serious and deep issues we need to address. I think we have problems we need to solve. And I choose to speak out about them in my own way. Because that is one of the brilliant things about my country. I get to do that. I get to say, this isn't right. We need to fix this. This is a problem. Because our troops have fought to defend our Constitution and that says we have the RIGHT to do that.
So yeah, I stand for the anthem. But I also stand for Kaepernick's right to kneel.
And I don't even have to like the guy to do that.