Colin Kaepernick’s sit-down during the national anthem reached a new level, and he couldn’t be happier. He uncapped issues that had been quieted in recent months, and his actions sparked the argument of what patriotism means.
Most importantly to Kaepernick, though, is he plastered his name on newspapers nationwide and exposed his brand to non-football fans struggling to pronounce his name. Everybody is talking about him.
Every new columnist who takes a crack at the anthem controversy tries to provide a different perspective regarding whether or not what Kaepernick did was right. They’re all talking about Colin the public figure -- the multimillionaire football player who used his TV time and influence to stir up a delicate issue.
None of them are talking about Colin the quarterback. And that may be the best thing to happen to his career since he lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert last season.
People are falling for Kaepernick’s artificial controversy, which is creating two views pitted against each other. Team Anti-Kaep: He is a selfish, un-American attention-seeker who should put his words to action instead of disrespecting the anthem. Team Pro-Kaep: He is a brave, free-thinking public figure who is standing up for a just cause and exercising his right not to stand (which is a right granted by the Constitution). Both may be true, but neither deserve attention.
So why is this campaign so successful? It comes down to fandom.
People either love or hate Colin Kaepernick. The former mostly live in the Bay Area while the latter come from cities in the NFC West. The rest of the country are relatively indifferent about Kaepernick -- as a player, at least.
As a born-and-raised Seahawks fan, my family and I loathed Kaepernick like the Sith Lord to the Legion of Boom’s Jedi Knights. The obnoxious tattoo sleeves that kiss his arms after scoring a touchdown and his cocky personality give the Seahawks everything they’ve wanted in a super villain since Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XL. Most people fail to realize that they don’t hate Colin Kaepernick. They hate the red and gold uniform he wears.
People are quick to jump on his political views because they don’t respect Kaepernick as a player. Nobody is paying him for his political opinions, so why should anyone care? If Peyton Manning, a well-respected, classic-style quarterback who has a high enough approval rating to run for president, were to commit a similar protest, the media would cover it just as much. Some followers would be outraged and dislike him as a player because of it. But the controversy would be nowhere near as divided and brutal as the case with Kaepernick. People flat out don’t like Kaepernick, which, in politics at least, is the entire battle.
Kaepernick’s career is dwindling. He’s not the same quarterback he was three seasons ago when he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, which means his window for publicity is shrinking. Would he start this kind of national media frenzy if he wasn’t on one of the biggest stages in the country? Probably not.
Kaepernick created a new identity. No longer were people focusing on his QB-1 battle with Gabbert, a fellow has-been, but rather his shocking protest for racial equality. He even grew the afro out (to add to his new ‘liberal’ personality? Style? Aerodynamics?).
Kaepernick set out to distract the media. He couldn’t care less if you hate him for sitting or applaud him for standing up for something. Any attention he can draw to himself and his opinions is a success.
Millions of people don’t stand, pause or honor the flag when the anthem plays. People will scorn others who don’t, scowl at them and stick their noses up, but why does Kaepernick get so much more attention? True, he is a big-name football player with great influence, but he has as much authority over politics and social justice as most average citizens.
You could agree or disagree with him, but making his actions into such a giant spectacle is exactly what Kaepernick wanted. After all, it is just more camera time.
So if you disagree with Kaepernick, stop talking about it. It’s the best thing you can do. He is not going to change his mind about sitting during the anthem until he stops getting face time (or until he gets booted from the team, whichever comes first).
He made a choice to make a statement, which is at least something. Kaepernick decided to take advantage of the air time while he has it. His career is dwindling, and so are the weight of his opinions. If he truly feels passionate about racial injustice in America, he picked the right time to let everybody know it.
Though his career might be doomed for a life of mediocrity, Kaepernick the person threw a hail Mary. People may not like what he’s done, but those who do will remember him for it. His playing won’t speak for itself. He saw something he didn’t agree with and seized the opportunity to try and make a change and rebrand himself.
For that, I’ll give a standing ovation.