Last week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first athlete in a major America team sport since Mahmoud Abdul Rauf to protest the National Anthem by refusing to stand for it. Kaepernick's rationale has been that he can't honor a flag that represents a country that oppresses people of color; Black people particularly. Considering the national reaction Kaepernick has received, this protest has been effective. And, considering the Star-Spangled Banner's racist roots, appropriate.
Naturally, this protest has made very many people very upset. Some have called Kaepernick ungrateful and disrespectful and suggest he move to another country if he hates America so much. Some have even taken that sentiment a step further and burned his jersey. (Which seems to only happen when White sports fans are angry about something a Black athlete has done.)
And, as is wont to happen when mindless and antagonistic patriotism, myopia, racism, and sports fanaticism mix, some people have said some remarkably dumb-ass shit about Kaepernick's protest. Which makes me wonder if there was a sale in the opinion aisle of the "Dumb-Ass Shit" store last week. Because so many of the people saying dumb-ass shit are saying the exact same dumb-ass shit.
I don't have the time or space to expound on each of the dumb-ass shits I've heard in the last week. So, let's just narrow to my two favorites!
1. "The real problem with Kaepernick is that sports and politics shouldn't mix!"
Initially, this seems like a simple and sober ask. Sports are a very effective distraction from the real world. Shit, you could argue that sports exist specifically to distract people. So it's not beyond reason to A) expect to be able to be divorced from politics while you're watching a game and B) become upset at a person who doesn't allow that to happen.
Unfortunately, that's impossible to do in America. Sports aren't just intertwined with politics. It might very well be the most transparently political and politics-driven entity here. (Besides, of course, actual politics.) To wit, the national anthem is played before every high school, college, and professional sporting event. I've probably been to 500 of these events, and the anthem was played before literally every single one. That's 500 times I've spent 60 to 90 seconds before a sports game facing our flag and reciting a verse from a cultish, terribly written song that makes negative infinity sense and effectively serves as bumper sticker patriotism. The Pledge of Allegiance doesn't even occur in every school anymore. But if you're throwing and catching a ball somewhere in America, you better Star Spangle the shit out of that ball.
And this is particularly true when it comes to football; the NFL specifically. Between the perpetual Marine commercials and fighter jets flying overhead and illogical allusions to shit like "the trenches" and "the battlefield," NFL games are practically three-hour-long military snuff films. We're thisclose to holding actual beheadings at halftime of the Super Bowl. Especially after Beyonce decided to be Black this year.
2. "Why is Colin Kaepernick protesting? He just signed a nine-figure salary! He's not oppressed!"
This is my favorite dumb-ass shit I've heard this week. Because it's the dumbest, it's the dumbest in the most ways, and it's the least self-aware. (It also seems to be the most popular one. Maybe the Dumb-Ass Shit store was having a two for one sale on this.)
The two most obvious signs of myopic idiocy here are A) the implication that rich Black people are somehow immune to racism and B) the equally inane implication that only poor people can speak out against it.
The sentiment in B) is particularly foolish because it neglects to consider an inalienable and sacrosanct truth about America and Americans. We only listen to rich people.
Generally speaking, America does not care about what poor and/or oppressed people have to say. About anything. Racism, classism, sexism, violence, health care, politics, education; you name it and we don't give a damn about poor people's opinions on it. Unless, of course, there are like a million of them saying it at the exact same time. Or they're saying it while standing in the middle of the interstate or doing something else that disrupts daily life. (And even then, you might get trucked by a Prius.) But one non-rich American protesting a worthy cause causes as much noise and garners as much attention as a spider with sleep apnea snoring. Think about it: There are 300 million people in this country. And the person the GOP felt is most qualified to represent it is a man whose only qualification is his bank statement.
Why is Colin Kaepernick, millionaire superstar quarterback, protesting? Because no one would give a damn if Colin Kaepernick, Retail Sales Representative at Verizon Wireless, did.