On the 27th of August, actor James Woods tweeted: “Kaepernick doesn’t stand for the national anthem, Rams players can walk onto the field with their hands up for the “hands up, don’t shoot”, and other players can wear t-shirts saying I can’t breathe. But the Dallas Cowboys can’t put a sticker on their helmets for the 5 police officers who were killed. Way to go NFL….” (grammar and punctuation mistakes were his.)
As I type this, Kaepernick was at another game yesterday and again didn’t stand for the National Anthem.
Now, believe me, I am like a LOT of other people who are angered beyond polite expression at this man’s lack of respect for our nation; and yes, that’s how I see it. I don’t see this as Kaepernick simply disrespecting the flag, but disrespecting the nation as a whole – every American citizen included. My VERY first instinct was that someone (who was there and big enough to do so) should have grabbed him by the jersey or pads and yanked his ass up out of the seat and educated him a bit after the National Anthem was over. Apparently a lot of other people had the same (or similar) thought as the mainstream media and social media blew up with people expressing their displeasure.
Then I saw two observations and I had to take a deep breath… calm down… and think about this from a different perspective. First, there was already talk about Kaepernick being cut from the 49ers. Having never expressed his support for BLM so publicly before, and never having “stood” for all those “oppressed” in our nation by leveraging his exposure through the NFL, Kaepernick picked the ideal time to decide – apparently out of the blue – that he needed to make a statement. In doing so, he thrust himself into the spotlight and, all of a sudden, was a viable media topic. At the same time, he gave himself the perfect race card to pull and play should the 49ers now decide to cut him. He can say it had nothing to do with his performance but was retaliatory for his refusal to respect our nation. Second, and far more importantly (to me), he was exercising his First Amendment right to free “speech;” (self-expression). That’s a right that I have worn a uniform to protect and defend for well over three decades. As I have explained to my children and to many officers I’ve trained: we have a duty to protect the First Amendment right of EVERY American, even when what’s coming out of their mouth angers us or makes us want to… ah… educate them. If we can’t defend their First Amendment right EVEN when they’re saying things we vehemently disagree with, then OUR values and beliefs need to be reexamined.
So, you know what? Kaepernick, I don’t have to agree with you. In fact, I think you’re a narcissistic jerk who needs his attitude adjusted in a major way. That said, I will defend your right to display that lack of respect for our nation “in protest” for the way you think “oppressed” peoples are treated. Yeah, Kaepernick, I think you’re an idiot, but being an idiot is not against the law and we all have to have a talent.
The bigger problem for me is the general outlook of the National Football League. The NFL should be making sure that its players set a good example for our younger folks… and our older folks as well. If you’re a football fan, you should NEVER see someone who plays professional football in the news for ANY crime. “So and so got pulled over for speeding”? Sure. That might be okay. But, for goodness’ sake, “So and so got arrested for domestic abuse? So and so is suspected of homicide? So and so was arrested and convicted of animal cruelty?” NONE of that is acceptable. That the NFL keeps such players around is proof positive that those in charge; those who have the power to make changes; those who SHOULD be insuring the integrity of the NFL have zero concern for moral behavior and 100% concern for the profit dollar.
To that end, the more media exposure they can get, for free, by way of any professional football player’s immoral and/or illegal behavior, is actually of benefit to them. Secretly, behind closed doors in private meetings, those same men (and women) are applauding Kaepernick for his actions. They are LOVING the media attention he generates because it puts the NFL in the spotlight and they didn’t have to pay a single advertising dollar for it.
In this vein they are one of the bigger contributors to a huge societal problem today: that we have a good portion of the current generation of impressionable young people who are trying to figure out who they are; who they want to be; what they want to do with their lives; and, more important than anything else, what their personal values and beliefs will be. What they’re seeing is a motley assortment of immoral and unethical men being paid millions of dollars to play a game, and as long as they do so with any kind of talent whatsoever, they can commit any crime they want in their off time. As long as they can support the effort of putting fans in the stands, they can commit misdemeanor and felony crimes, endanger lives and yes, disrespect the entire freaking nation, and all they get is, at most, a slap on the wrist.
The NFL and all of its leadership should be ashamed. I know they’re not. I know that if any one of them read this they would laugh at how naïve I am in my expectations that moral and ethical behavior should be of greater value than the almighty dollar. They would laugh at my lifestyle, my financial status, my house and the “horrors” my family has to endure because I make so little compared to what they get paid. On the other hand, I don’t know how they manage to look in the mirror and not puke. They are a HUGE part of the problem confronting our society and it’s a problem that is destroying America as we know it. They are so eager to make a buck that they don’t care who commits what act or crime and they actually enjoy seeing “NFL” in the news when it doesn’t cost them advertising dollars. They should be ashamed… but they aren’t, and likely never will be.
That’s part of the battle that we law enforcement professionals fight. WE have to show people what true heroes are and we have to do it in such a way that the mainstream media has no choice but to cover it. Short of that, we have to become our own best promoters. We have to leverage every facet of social media that we can and make undisputable arguments for why public safety professionals are of far greater value than some athlete on any field.
It’s up to us… and we can’t accomplish it by criticizing one idiot’s disrespect for the nation that offered him so much opportunity. We do it by saying, “Yeah, he can do that. Any citizen can, but their right to do that is what WE protect. Without US they couldn’t get away with it.”
Stand tall. Stand proud. Stay safe.
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Editor's Note - added 1319 hours, 9/2/16:
It's now in the news that several other NFL players are also keeping their seats (not standing up) for the playing of the National Anthem. Once again, while I respect their First Amendment rights, in line with everything I said above, I call on the NFL to issue a statement that it encourages ALL players to show proper respect for the Nation, its flag and its anthem at ALL games. Further, the NFL's statement should make it clear that such respect is part of the professional demeanor and performance that it expects from representatives of the league, which includes ALL the players.
It would be nice if the NFL leadership would at least pretend to value America and the system that lets it (the NFL) and its players get rich.