Colin Kaepernick Has a Job
September 13, 2017 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Colin Kaepernick Has a Job: Inside the past, present and future of this country's most inconvenient truth, by way of the most controversial black man in America
posted by OmieWise (33 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Heads up: the site linked above has an annoying autoplay video.]
posted by Fizz at 6:02 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


The thing that is most visibly true about white people but is basically true about all oppressor groups is that we think people can be hurt and ground down and like it. Why on earth would anyone with a grain of human feeling be puzzled by Colin Kaepernick? Do we really expect people to see others like them get beaten and killed and not care, not have any feelings?

I think this is particularly true of white people because there is all this social conditioning generated by slavery and Jim Crow that we should not expect Black people - or people of color generally - to have tender emotions and finer feelings, so when someone is all "you know, it hurts me and wears me down to see Black people treated this way" we brush it aside. Or have learned not to care.

If we ever get back in the good timeline again, there will be an inspiring biopic about Kaepernick and his friends.

This was a really good article - made a lot of good points about activism. I have to say, as a non-sportsball-following person, I would never have had any idea how much good sports journalism there is if not for metafilter.

Not that I know how to solve racism in America, but maybe many individual actions will eventually weaken the central structures so that they can be toppled.

It's one of those things where you do feel that revolutionary change is the only thing that might have a shot at working - I'm not necessarily talking about "let's all go out in the streets and have a revolution and smash things", but that level of change. What I notice locally is that obviously moral and popular protest pretty much smashes on the rocks of white political elites, whether DFL or Republican, especially when it involves Black issues. Some of that is the strength of police unions, some of it is just racism and being self-serving, but it's very clear that even though many white Twin Citiesians don't have, like, super woke and developed racial justice politics, it's still true that getting the police under control, fixing the schools and various minimum-social-justice reforms like that would be popular, but it still doesn't happen.
posted by Frowner at 6:54 AM on September 13 [40 favorites]


That was indeed a very god piece. Like Frowner, my interest in professional sports approaches zero from below. I have heard mocking football fans dismissing and minimizing Kaepernick as an indifferent player whose grandstanding antics have left him unemployed. I say they are missing the point: Colin Kaepernick Has a Job and it is not running around with a football.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:09 AM on September 13 [7 favorites]


> I have heard mocking football fans dismissing and minimizing Kaepernick as an indifferent player whose grandstanding antics have left him unemployed.

And yet, FOR SOME REASON, this guy had a starting job last Sunday.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:31 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]


And the internet does not know a lamb who’s difficult to kill, so few things are riskier than stepping out before you’re fully polished. That catch-all “woke”—meaning everything and nothing—is overused now, not as a sticker for the well-informed and -intentioned, but as a stamp of disapproval for those who have messed up, and therefore aren’t.

To be a work-in-progress is nearly unacceptable, because the currency that drives our culture is not self-improvement, but instead the ongoing erosive process of each person, on each side, designating who is wrong and who is right.
posted by clawsoon at 8:20 AM on September 13 [24 favorites]


clawsoon, you just beat me to quoting that same section. The whole piece is great, but that part hit home.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:30 AM on September 13


This was a good piece, but the writer clearly had his impressions about the place and people that Kaepernick is from before he ever exited his boringly cheap and white rental car (which he made sure to mention--because Valley towns are as cheap as his rental Kia, amirite?). For me, his immediate elitism about the place he was visiting occludes and undermines any other observations or judgments he was trying to make about race in his essay, and he makes the same mistake by using 'white people who are NFL fans' as synecdoche for 'white people' or even 'white people in the Central Valley.'

The author also describes Turlock as a monolithically white town where a mixed-race kid only got along because he was able to play white, being sure to note that the town's population is only 1.7% black--with the clear implication (actually, it's pretty overt) that Kaepernick had to 'get along' with 98.3% of his town being white folks who just wanted him to be good at sports. But Turlock's population is actually 2.2% black, 38.9% Hispanic, 6.4% Asian, 2.5% who identify as 'two or more races,' and 48.4% white.

I don't think many people reading this essay come away with the impression that the author, who spent a lot of time describing Kaepernick's home town and its people, and makes it a critical piece of his whole thesis, was describing a town that is less than half white people. How does the author visit Colin Kaepernick's home town and not even mention the very large population of Hispanic folks, who react to American football in different ways than white people, but also to political and social protest?

I completely agree that the NFL's (and NFL fan's) reactions to Kaepernick's protests, principles and values are disgusting, and personally admire him tremendously for quietly and persistently speaking up, for not going along to get along, and I love how well that part of him as a person is drawn out in this piece. But the truth is, in Colin's home town at least, it's not as simple as black and white.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:32 AM on September 13 [9 favorites]


That piece was longer, and better, than I expected. In case you are on the fence about reading, it discusses what formed Kaepernick's political consciousness -- and indeed, its existence -- and what he's been doing since the NFL owners black-balled him.

I agree with Frowner, "Do we really expect people to see others like them get beaten and killed and not care, not have any feelings?" And I thumped my forehead a few times reading this pieve: as an American (and yes, a white person), I am used to thinking of pro athletes as being entirely defined by their place as mere jocks, albeit at the tip-top of their sport, and only rarely considering that they might have something interesting to say.

Not only does Kaepernick have thoughts, he shares them, and holds his ground when the NFL machine recoils. Damn right, Colin Kaepernick: you do deserve a job on the field, but you're also doing good off of it.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:35 AM on September 13 [5 favorites]


so when someone is all "you know, it hurts me and wears me down to see Black people treated this way" we brush it aside. Or have learned not to care.

Rapper Open Mike Eagle has an excellent line about this in one of his politically oriented songs: They [ie, the authorities] respond to demonstrations wearing Kevlar briefs/When the main problem is nobody respects our grief.

From the article:
When you are a minority and refute the notion that you were charitably allowed into a club—that you were being done a favor, not that you earned it—you will be punished, until it has been determined that you have learned your lesson.

This. So much this. I'm surprised I haven't choked on my tongue given the number of times I've had to swallow it during my 43 years as a black man in America.

Thanks for sharing this piece, OmieWise. I had been wanting to read more articles about this that centered CK instead of centering the handwringing of NFL team owners and the hurt feelings of fans.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:53 AM on September 13 [43 favorites]


I'm a 75 year old male that looks white. I'm the son of Italian immigrants. I learned long ago that my vowel filled name gets me associate member status at best in the white club (if I wanted it). I loved football for decades, have a close relative who worked for the NFL for 23 years and will never watch another NFL production. I totally support and understand Colin's actions and admire his courage. It is the duty of any public figure to use his new found pulpit to advance the important causes, I wish more would follow.
posted by shnarg at 9:29 AM on September 13 [15 favorites]


For me, his immediate elitism about the place he was visiting occludes and undermines any other observations or judgments he was trying to make about race in his essay

Just so you know, we have now reached the point where everyone knows that this means "I wouldn't be interested in the stuff about race regardless, but thankfully I have this excuse to latch onto."

(I mean, seriously, "I would be concerned about police brutality and the centuries of bloody oppression of blacks from which it emerges, and the concomitant destruction of the careers of black people who object to it, but frankly I prioritize elitism about small towns SO much more highly that it monopolizes all my attention." That is what you are saying.)
posted by praemunire at 9:55 AM on September 13 [19 favorites]


FWIW, In the 1970's, the Turlock area and environs surrounding Stockton was home of the vigilante group, Posse Comitatus, and the California Nazi Party. Stockton itself, at least when I was there in the sixties and seventies was distinctly divided with race lines rarely crossed.
posted by goalyeehah at 10:01 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


"I wouldn't be interested in the stuff about race regardless, but thankfully I have this excuse to latch onto."

Just so you know, that isn't true for this person so please do not force your interpretation or subtext onto my very clear words. I don't need to defend other people's behavior, but I will call out any writer for assumptions, bias and prejudice, certainly in the context of a piece about those very issues.

That is what you are saying.

No, it is not. That is what you are inferring and projecting. What I actually said included: "I completely agree that the NFL's (and NFL fan's) reactions to Kaepernick's protests, principles and values are disgusting, and personally admire him tremendously for quietly and persistently speaking up, for not going along to get along, and I love how well that part of him as a person is drawn out in this piece."

Do not twist my words into racist meaning, and stop demanding that my language or ideas strictly conform to your version of acceptable thought.

FWIW, In the 1970's, the Turlock area and environs surrounding Stockton was home of the vigilante group, Posse Comitatus, and the California Nazi Party. Stockton itself, at least when I was there in the sixties and seventies was distinctly divided with race lines rarely crossed.

Yes, five decades ago things were a bit different. There are lots and lots of non-white people in the Central Valley now, and to characterize it as monolithically white is to project one's own bias outward. (Stockton has many, many problems, but they are not really comparable to the smaller towns in the region--its nexus on the two major north-south arteries, for one, is the source of many of its woes.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:48 AM on September 13 [9 favorites]


Also, so as not to abuse the edit window, I should add: my point is not that the Central Valley is free from racial problems, violence and worse, but that it is no longer as simple as black people and white people. I understand that Kaepernick is speaking and protesting about specific racial injustice, murder and other horrors, but this writer cast the experience of growing up in a monolithically white and culturally backwards farm town as the foundation of his essay, and that's a grossly inaccurate characterization of the place that Kaepernick is from.

I think that's a salient criticism of an essay that is examining the person, his experiences, and how they were a crucible that formed his social protest and activism that led to his current professional, public controversies (and employment problems). What it is not, is a disavowal of concern or interest in the problems that Kaepernick himself is protesting and drawing attention to--but I didn't read the essay as primarily about those, either. I read the essay as about the person Colin Kaepernick, and it took great care to contextualize him in detail because of that focus. But that contextualization commits many of the kinds of errors that the author criticizes Kaepernick's detractors and critics for making, and that hypocrisy or blind spot undermines his entire piece.

I apologize if criticizing the posted essay as a piece of writing in any way offended anyone reading, and am personally disappointed to finally come across a piece that is fair, sympathetic and supportive to both Kaepernick and his message(s), generally quite skillfully written, that is also fundamentally undermined because of the author's own biases. But it looks like I'm trying to have a different conversation than others are having, so I'll leave it aside.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:07 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]


BRB, ordering a Kaep jersey to wear to the Wembley game I'm attending with my Extremely Conservative colleagues in a couple of weeks
posted by ominous_paws at 11:14 AM on September 13 [7 favorites]


Not about the article itself, but I remain mystified that Kaepernick's actions are so controversial to the point of being career-endangering. (Although I don't know about teams' current roster needs, either.)

I can understand why lots of the NFL audience would disagree with his opinions to the point of mocking them, but figured the libertarian anti-PC trollishness currently popular among conservatives would've discouraged turning the NFL into one giant safe space for Confederate-flag waving snowflakes.

We already have NASCAR for that.

Seems likely to the point of inevitability that criticizing Kaepernick is going to wind up playing like criticizing the salute at the '68 games.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:29 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


The roster needs of the league are begging for a fix. The fact that Kaepernick isn't signed can only be attributed to racism.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:45 PM on September 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah I was really excited when I saw the post on metafilter, having been following the Kaepernick saga with some interest, and was quite disappointed to wade through the essay (300 words before the first reference to anything related to football, let alone Kaepernick) and slowly piece together that he still wasn't on an NFL roster at all.

Lots of intriguing and salient points otherwise, just not the essay I was expecting to read.
posted by smokysunday at 2:51 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Quoth the article:
When the Seattle Seahawks general manager reached out to his people on May 12, Colin had been working out five days a week, sometimes more. The Seahawks flew him out 11 days later, but did not have him pick up a ball. It seemed like a great fit: a playoff team, a progressive city, teammates who had followed his anthem lead and spoken out about politics and criminal justice. But would that cause a rift in the locker room, with politically active players feeling more aligned to their politically active backup than their notoriously silent starter, Russell Wilson? Was this the type of "distraction" teams feared?
I don't think this was the cause; the Seahawks didn't sign Kaepernick for the same reason other teams haven't: it would alienate their fan base.

Even though the "Seattle Seahawks" have the word Seattle in their name, they're more like the Seattle Times as far as customers. The bulk of the Seahawks' fans come from the much-more-conservative-than-Seattle-the-city areas around Puget Sound. The admittedly-not-very-scientific Estately blog points out, based on Facebook data, that you have to get all the way down to #32 before you find Seattle in the list of cities that are "fanatical" about the Seahawks. I read somewhere, probably the Times, that the bulk of Seahawks season ticket holders live well outside the city. So it's the same cop-out business consideration...don't want to piss off the more rabid and more loyal fan base.

I'm not a Seahawks or football (either kind) fan but I wish the team had signed him.
posted by fireoyster at 8:05 PM on September 13


3 things:

1) I *do* "follow the sportsball" and the fact that Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster is absurd. Realistlically, he is a bottom end starter or high end 2nd string quarterback. But most teams carry 3 quarterbacks, so there are roughly 90 in the league, and I don't think anyone could realistically say he is not in the top 35 quarterbacks.

There were at least four quarterbacks who started game 1 last week who were indisputably worse than Kaep: Bortles, Savage, Tolzein and McCown. 3 of them will likely be benched for game 2, and at least 3 of the second string quarterbacks behind those guys (Henne, Brissett and Hackenberg) are clearly worse than him too. The 4th backup, Deshaun Watson, is a very raw rookie who might be OK but might be a disaster. So there is no reason Kaep is not playing on pure football grounds.

2) As far as money goes, bullshit. He's not going to cost anyone money. Diehard fans aren't going to abandon their teams, and most season tickets go to corporations who won't suddenly forget the value of free football tickets as a customer reward. He has a lot of fans, too, and last I heard he was in the top 5 of all NFL players for jersey sales (which teams get a big percentage of).

3) There is a dynamic in American popular culture that I've previously only noticed with politicians and scandals. That is, the first one takes the bullet, while subsequent people do the same thing and sail through unscathed. Sucks to be the pioneer.

EG Douglas Ginsberg and Bill Clinton for pot; after which George Bush Jr. (implicityly) and Barack Obama (explicitly) openly admitted to using COCAINE without any consequence.

Kaep was the first and took the bullet, but at least a dozen NFL players are now kneeling or raising fists during the national anthem and no one really cares, and in fact for each of them several teammates (Black and white) are supporting them by hugging them or putting their hands on their shoulders as they kneel. He was the pioneer and paid the price, but his statement lives on and the courage of his protest will earn him lasting fame that his football skills never could have.
posted by msalt at 12:06 AM on September 14 [13 favorites]


When Muhammad Ali died in 2016 and all the tributes and encomiums came pouring out of the mainstream sports press, I rolled my eyes as hard as humanly possible given how most of the exact same press were treating Kaepernick. Like, give me a fuckin' break. If you don't like what Kap is doing nowadays, you would have hated what Ali was doing back then.
posted by mhum at 5:55 PM on September 14 [12 favorites]


“Star-Spangled Bigotry: The Hidden Racist History of the National Anthem,” Jason Johnson, The Root, 04 July 2016
posted by ob1quixote at 9:21 PM on September 14


In a delightful (if inconsequential) middle finger to the league, the NFLPA has named Kaepernick its “Community MVP” for week 1 of the season.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:54 AM on September 15 [7 favorites]


This is an utter brainfart but if other players are that motivated I wonder if it would work to start up a Globetrotters style unofficial team with Kaepernick at the helm and do community and youth oriented stuff. Crew it with all those interesting personalities that we only get to know for a season or two before the league spits em out (or never drafts them after college). Chris Kluwe comes to mind. (Mustain still wants to play somewhere, but I get the sense his politics revolve around guns. Guest appearances for Randall Cunningham? Funny, the the names I hold on to. More interesting than who's winning.)

I'd love to see the shitstorm if the league were to try to ban players from boosting it, even if their contracts might prevent them from scrimmaging. They could play interested college teams instead. And I bet it could be done for what amounts to chump change amongst the better paid players.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:01 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


Upon checking, Kluwe played way longer than I had realized. But, still.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:11 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


When Muhammad Ali died in 2016 and all the tributes and encomiums came pouring out of the mainstream sports press, I rolled my eyes as hard as humanly possible given how most of the exact same press were treating Kaepernick. Like, give me a fuckin' break. If you don't like what Kap is doing nowadays, you would have hated what Ali was doing back then.

Don't worry, they'll laud Kaepernick for his courage 30 years from now too, and they talk about how history proved the Democrats were right on all the issues that used to be so controversial in the past (remember when Medicare and the voting rights act were highly controversia, just 53 years ago?)
posted by msalt at 3:18 AM on September 16 [3 favorites]


“NFL teams being on the field for anthem is a relatively new practice,” Tom E. Curran, CSNNE.com, 29 August 2017 [via]
“It’s a tribute to the NFL’s ability to drape itself in the flag that nobody even realizes that – prior to 2009 – players being on the field for the national anthem wasn’t even standard practice.”
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


What a fascinating turn this has taken. With the support of owners, some of whom joined their teams on the field, dozens of players knelt in silent protests. With the support of owners.

Meanwhile, 'It's Disgusting': NFL Fans React to National Anthem Protests.

Players are deciding that they don't want to be part of Patriotism Theatre anymore. Fans loooooove Patriotism Theatre. Something's gotta give.

The only reliable remaining source of Patriotism Theatre is NASCAR, and they're hunkering down.
posted by clawsoon at 6:25 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


“Take a Knee,” Stephen Squibb, n+1 Magazine, 25 September 2017
posted by ob1quixote at 8:40 AM on September 25


The only reliable remaining source of Patriotism Theatre is NASCAR, and they're hunkering down.

Looks like Dale Jr. didn't get the memo.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:12 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Good for him. Sincerely, good for him.
posted by clawsoon at 11:48 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


For future reference, the football protests today have been being discussed in the politics threads - right now, in this catch-all thread.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:17 PM on September 25


Here's a nice bit of framing from an 8-year old girl that's going around Facebook.
I asked Molly, who is 8 and plays several sports, what it means to "take a knee." Her answer: "It's what you are supposed to do when someone is hurt. It shows that you care, and want them to get better, or be okay."

I then asked what she thought it meant that some of the players on the Ravens knelt during the National Anthem. Her response: "I guess they think that the country is hurt, and they are hoping that it gets better."
posted by msalt at 5:02 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


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