I want to boycott the NFL.
I want to put my money where my mouth is. Not like in a stripper way, but more like in the sense that I want my actions to match my values. Just to be clear, lest you think I am a stripper. I’m flattered, but I lack the balance to successfully pole dance in high heels. Don’t worry about how I know that.
One of my values is that I (try to) use logic and reason to evaluate life as it unfolds before me. More than “keeping my emotions in check,” I view my own emotional knee-jerk as a valuable canary in the coal mine.
That is, if I’m reacting emotionally to something, that is all the more reason to employ cold logic and reason to the situation. To do otherwise is to risk reacting instead of deciding.
For many—especially those on the political right—Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest sparked visceral outrage.
For me, it’s quite the opposite. The fact that so many of my countrymen are outraged outrages me. It’s almost like they’re a bunch of populist-duped nationalists who’ve never read the freaking Constitution or something! Oh, wait. Yeah, it’s exactly like that.
Still, it’s infuriating to me, even if I understand why they feel the way they do.
That being said, the emotional upsurge (both theirs and mine) tells me I need to pause, reflect, and logically march through why my values land me on Colin Kaepernick’s side.
Here’s what I know, friends:
First (Amendment) Things First
Colin is totally within his right to silently protest during the national anthem. “Rights,” of course, don’t equate to “consequence-free actions,” and in fact, if there were zero consequences to a protest, it wouldn’t be much of a protest.
I understand that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws from abridging our right to free speech. So, I get it that a private company can do pretty much whatever the hell it wants with regard to an employee’s expression, especially on company time.
I also understand that the NFL is no ordinary “private company.” The league is granted special antitrust exemptions from the United States government, allowing it to act as a legally approved monopoly in certain situations.
In other words, we the people have deemed the NFL set apart in the way we treat it. By the stroke of a pen, it is above the law that almost every other organization has to follow. It’s hard to call an organization with such special treatment from the public a truly “private organization.”
God Bless America, Brought To You By The DoD
The United States Department of Defense paid upwards of $53 million to sports teams between 2012 and 2015, with around $6 million going to the NFL itself. These payments were given to promote patriotic, pro-military ceremonies surrounding the pre-game activities at NFL events. And note, that’s not including the DoD payments to individual teams, with many collecting more than $500,000.
Years of your taxpayer dollars have been funneled to the NFL and its teams to make sure a government-approved message has been blasted into your homes. Agree with the underlying message or not, such an arrangement between OUR government and an individual company in a democratic, constitutional republic warrants close examination.
And the examination is even more needed when a player, whose message ran counter to the League’s pro-government message, suddenly finds himself unemployable.
Please Welcome Our New QB, Osama bin Laden!
Owners of NFL teams have repeatedly signed players with abominable personal histories while concurrently speaking out against Kaep’s anthem protest.
For instance, John Mara of the New York Giants stated that he received numerous letters from fans stating that if any Giants players knelt during the anthem, the fans would never come to another game.
Meanwhile, Mara’s organization signed kicker Josh “Chris” Brown to a contract after his second arrest for abusing his wife.
Mara: I’m worried that if we sign Colin, our fans will jump ship.
GM: Yeah, good call boss. Hey, we’ve got this kicker named Brown, we’re going to re-sign him.
Mara: Chris Brown?
GM: No, but close. This is Josh Brown.
Mara: Any issues with him I should know about?
GM: Nothing major. He has been arrested twice for beating the everloving shit out of his wife, but nothing truly egregious like silently protesting police brutality versus the Black community. Brown’s an average kicker, getting kind of old but still decent at his job.
Mara: SIGN THAT MAN TO A CONTRACT!
Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, has evaded directly stating his reasons for the Ravens passing on Kaepernick. However, several sources indicate that the potential for fan backlash was a factor in keeping him off the roster of the Ravens. Yeah, that would be the same Ravens who employed Ray Lewis (arrested for involvement in murder of two men), Ray Rice (knocking his fiancé out cold in an Atlantic City elevator), and Terrell Suggs (seriously, what hasn’t this guy done?).
Given the Ravens’ history, it rings a little hollow to hear that they are afraid of public backlash for a player’s “misconduct,” especially when that misconduct was a First Amendment protected exercise of his free speech. You know, as opposed to killing some dudes after the Super Bowl.
Why Would I Need A Corvette When I Have This Old Pair Of Rollerskates?
NOTE: If you aren’t a football person, let me sum up this section for you so you can skip ahead: Colin Kaepernick is a much better, much more experienced, and YOUNGER quarterback than many of the QB’s currently employed in the NFL. So, skip ahead, or read on for more detail. I won’t be offended either way. Namely because I’ll have no idea. There’s no test at the end or anything.
The argument that Kaepernick is getting too old or just isn’t good enough to play in the NFL is bogus. Now, given his knee injury last year and his declining performance over the last two seasons with the (falling apart at the seams independently of the quarterback) San Francisco 49ers, I can accept that many teams will decide he’s not a great candidate for starter.
But scan a quick list of back-up quarterbacks that, by the “he’s not good enough” argument, are “better” than Colin: Matt Schaub, Ryan Mallett, Mark Sanchez, Brock Osweiler, Chad Henne, Scott Tolzien, Matt Moore, and Chase Daniel, just to name a few. (Note: Three of those yahoos played for my team, the Houston Texans, and I assure you I’d take Kaep over them any day of the week).
Kaepernick threw 72 touchdowns and rushed for another 13 in his six years with San Francisco. That’s more than each of the people listed except Schaub (who has played 7 seasons longer than Kaep) and Sanchez (who has played 1 more season).
At 29 years old, Kaepernick is younger than Matt Schaub, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Scott Tolzien, Matt Moore, and Chase Daniel. And he’s the same age as Ryan Mallett. He’s also younger than the guy that Schaub backs up (Matt Ryan, 32), the guy Mallett backs up (Joe Flacco, 32), the guy Matt Moore backs up (Jay Cutler, 34), and the guy Chase Daniel backs up (Drew Brees, 38).
Poise and leadership are crucial on the field in the NFL. Ideally, a QB is a mix of youthful athletic ability and veteran field leadership, patience, and vision. At 29, Kaepernick has started in six playoff games, including starting the Super Bowl once in 2012, where the Niners lost a close, tough game to Baltimore. Only Mark Sanchez comes close. Sanchez has been to six playoff games, losing twice in the AFC Championship.
Compare that to the records of other, apparently “better” QB’s that presently have jobs in the NFL. Schaub has started three playoff games, and won one. Moore has been to (and lost) one playoff game. Chase Daniel has been to four playoff games as a backup, and has a grand total of -2 yards rushing to his name in those esteemed outings.
And Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett, and Scott Tolzien have never played a single playoff game.
I understand that there are “intangibles” and other statistics worth looking at, but to argue that Colin Kaepernick is less able to lead and produce at the NFL level than this collection of back-ups is blatantly wrong. It’s almost like people who trot out this argument are trying to cover for a more nefarious motivation. Hmm.
To Boycott Or Not To Boycott?
Welcome back, skippers.
So, what’s the final tally? Well, I love football. But I love free speech a little more.
I’m not worried about football going anywhere, and if it does, we’ll survive (barely).
But I am worried about the slow, steady erosion of freedom of speech. I’m worried that a government-sponsored league is able to blackball someone because they don’t like what he’s saying about society’s ills. I’m worried about the correlation between that player being locked out and the loud, angry, “Make America Great Again” rhetoric echoing around in our melting pot.
In a nation that supposedly treasures free speech, with a president who is whipping his supporters into a nationalist frenzy, protecting dissent is more important than it has ever been.
So, as much as it pains me, I think logic and reason dictate what I have to do. I think I’m left with no choice but to turn off my TV on Sundays (and Mondays, and Thursdays…fuck my life).
I’m turning it off until the NFL elects to reflect real American values, like protecting freedom of speech even when we don’t like the message or the method.
This is going to hurt. But without consequences, I guess I can hardly call it a protest.
Colin, I’ve got your back, brother. The least I can do is turn off my TV in solidarity with you. I’m proud as hell of you for standing up for your beliefs, even when it is costing you. Especially when it is costing you.
There’s literally nothing more American than that.