Kaepernick protest riles fans

Colin Kaepernick has the Constitutional right to say whatever he pleases. However, that freedom does not extend to the consequences of the content of that speech. It’s a lesson many public figures learn the hard way, and a maxim, Kaepernick is about to understand in real time.

The San Francisco quarterback has an issue with how blacks and other “people of color” are treated in modern America, so he has chosen to protest in one of the most visible ways possible, by refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem prior to 49ers football games. That means his “message” and “protest” will be broadcast to tens of millions every Sunday, as well as some Thursdays and Mondays too. Not to mention regular repetitions on Sports Center.

That Kaepernick has “willingly” and “intentionally” thrust himself into a national controversy might sound noble and honorable, but in reality, he is putting himself in danger of losing the platform he is using to spread his discontent.

The NFL is a business. A massive, profitable business and that business makes more money when players avoid making political waves. Sure, they can engage in antics on the field or, in certain cases and contexts, off the field. But there are some contexts and actions that cost more than the league and its team owners are willing to pay. Enraging millions of fans before the game even begins has the definite potential to be one of those actions. Kaepernick doesn’t seem to understand. Or maybe he does and just doesn’t care. When questions about his actions, here’s what the quarterback 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.”

That’s what Colin says the flag represents to him. He’s not alone in this assessment. But, in the grander scheme of things, the flag represents very different things to a lot more people than those who agree with Kaepernick and BLM.

Among those is the team that signs the quarterback’s paychecks. Here’s the 49ers official statement on the matter:

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem…”

That is what the Niners believe Kaepernick is disrespecting, and that position is far and away the most popular version of this conversation. For some, that Kaepernick is standing — or in this case sitting — outside the status quo is reason for celebration. For most, though, it’s a cry for attention and a misreading of a situation that could create major financial backlash for the team that signs his checks.

Is Kaepernick willing to pay that price? Time will tell, but it’s informative to note he’s making this stand during preseason. When there a lot fewer people there to notice.

David Milberg is an investment analyst from NYC.

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