Be Useful (A Post About Colin Kaepernick)

This article originally appeared on this site.

I had mixed emotions about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the National Anthem. The man risked his reputation and his career to make a point, and that makes me want to listen to the message. I have to respect that kind of commitment to what he sees as the right thing to do. His heart is in the right place.

Where the problem comes in for me is that I thought Kaepernick and I were on the same team (America, not the 49ers). It is jarring to see my “teammate” diss my team.

Then I read this article on CNN.com explaining that the national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave-owning anti-abolishonist. The “lost” verses even mention slavery. And the country that Key’s song celebrated believed that owning people like Colin Kaepernick as slaves was perfectly acceptable. 

If I were African-American, I wouldn’t want to stand for a slaver’s song of celebration. And as Kaepernick’s teammate (America, not 49ers), I have to support him on that. I’m in favor of replacing the national anthem. If the situation were reversed, I would expect my teammates to do the same for me.

But Kaepernick was not specifically protesting the national anthem. He was making a point about America not supporting African-Americans. Again, I applaud the sentiment and I respect the messenger for taking a risk to make the point. 

But is it useful?

I’m not aware of any specific proposals for fixing what Kaepernick thinks needs to be fixed. But it is likely I am under-informed.

And this brings me to my larger point. I think it’s time to re-think what our government is, and what it can do for us. Thanks to the power of social media, any good idea – from anyone – has a solid chance of bubbling up to national attention. Once something becomes big on social media, it has a good chance of making the leap to the mainstream media. And once a proposal reaches the mainstream media, our politicians are forced to deal with it. If they ignore a good idea with widespread public support, they will be held accountable.

So to Colin Kaepernick, I say “good job” making your point. But I ask you to take the next step and solicit specific ideas for change. If I see something good, I’ll do my part as your teammate (America, not 49ers) and give it some attention in this blog and on Twitter.

I heard Trump’s comments on this situation and was disappointed. Trump said something sarcastic about Kaepernick finding a country that he likes better. Persuasion-wise, the stronger play was to support Kaepernick’s right to free speech and invite him to be part of the solution, as I just did.

You might like my book because that’s the kind of person you are.