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An athlete's protest stirs up mixed emotions

  • Written by Joe Boyle

I assume most of us have never met or know Colin Kaepernick, the controversial quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

Kaepernick has been kneeling or sitting during the playing of the national anthem before preseason games. He continues to do that as a protest of police brutality and the oppression of African Americans.

Protests at sporting events and other celebrity events is nothing new. But the cries of injustice have been more vocal than they have been in years. Teenagers, young adults and even the middle-aged have been protesting reports of aggressive police behavior directed towards minorities.

The shouts have been louder and the protests have become more frequent due to the shooting deaths of minority suspects by police. Locally, the Laquan McDonald shooting near 49th and Pulaski in Chicago has drawn national attention. The reason for the outcries is that these incidents have been recorded by police cameras and by witnesses.

Police administrators are attempting to deal with the onslaught of complaints and protests due to these recorded images that in several instances have not shown officers reacting to these incidents in the best of light.

This is an emotional issue that tugs at most of us. My father was a Chicago firefighter and I have relatives and friends who are police officers. No one has to tell me that first responders have a tough job. Police officers are often in the line of danger.

While I agree with the Blue Lives Matter movement and the neighborhood gatherings saluting the bravery and commitment of police officers, I think everyone needs to see the whole picture. For far too long, some incidents by some rogue cops have been swept under the rug. It took a security videotape several years ago to show an off-duty police officer beating a diminutive female bartender in a Chicago tavern. Without the tape, this officer would have never been prosecuted.

A police officer’s job is difficult and more dangerous than ever. For the majority of police officers who perform their jobs admirably, an overhaul in how administrators train new recruits and make more personnel more accountable to the public will eventually be best for everyone. And for critics and protestors of police, I want to remind them not to paint all of these officers with one brush. Split-second decisions have to be made during encounters with suspects. The end result is not always the best outcome. But is not always the fault of the police.

And then there is Kaepernick. He was born in 1987 in Milwaukee and was described as a biracial child. He became the adoptive son of white parents Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, also of Milwaukee. The family moved to California four years later where Kaepernick starred in baseball and football in high school.

He starred as a quarterback for University of Nevada Reno and was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers. While star quarterback Alex Smith was recovering from a series of concussions, Kaepernick’s first start was a crushing defeat of the Bears. He started in the Super Bowl in 2013 but the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens. He continued to put up good numbers in 2014 but struggled in 2015. Kaepernick had a reputation of an erratic arm that negated his great running ability. This season, he is the second-string quarterback.

I’m only providing his football background because I’m not sure what advantage his current opposition against the national anthem serves him. It will not get his starting job back. Many critics, as in the case of athletes who speak out on social issues, criticize Kaepernick. He is viewed as a self-absorbed athlete that should give up his lucrative salary if he is fed up with America.

For the record, it should be pointed out that the 49ers brass support Kaepernick’s right to protest. He has his backers, including former basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who said his protest was “highly patriotic.”

It should also be pointed out that Kapernick’s protest is aimed at certain police officers and not the military, which he holds in high regard.

The bottom line here is that it is Kaepernick’s constitutional right to protest. Compare this to say Michael Jordan, who only recently spoke out about police shootings. During his basketball career, Jordan rarely spoke out about anything and seemed more concerned about protecting his many business interests.

That’s not a criticism of Jordan, it’s just a fact. Sports fans and other Americans get uneasy when athletes express their opinions. Whether you agree or disagree with Kaepernick’s stand, it has people talking about an uncomfortable subject. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also sat down before the national anthem during a preseason game. Eric Reid, a safety for the 49ers, also kneeled before the playing of the national anthem during a preseason game.

But Kaepernick is the one under the microscope. I believe there are other ways Kaepernick could have made his protest. But he chose this one and that takes some courage because the overall opinions are negative. The Santa Clara police, where the 49ers play, are so angry they have threatened to boycott working the games.

Perhaps in time the opinions of Kaepernick will change. But for right now, he has made his stand and it is not a popular one.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .