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August 30, 2016

Sit hits the fan: Kaepernick picked right time – but wrong place – for protest

There are many sports fans that would like nothing more than to have professional athletes morph into crosses between robots and fantasy characters – toy dolls for their own fun and games, with little relevance in the real world.

Well, that is never going to happen. If you want that total disassociation between sports and the real world, the suggestion here is that you simply play the fantasy leagues and disregard everything else that’s going on.

And the real world once again stepped into the little sandbox of professional sports over the weekend when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s sit-down protest during the national anthem was finally noticed and he was more than willing to stand his ground.

The aftermath has been an echo chamber of opinions and tough talk.

Many would like Kaepernick to simply stand up and shut up, while seemingly just as many would prefer Kaepernick to sit down and keep on talking.

At this point, most of America’s sports fans have been advised that the quarterback is trying to make a statement that the anthem and flag have lost their meaning to many Americans who are not being treated fairly.

What makes America great is Kaepernick’s right to speak his mind … but there is time and a place. Certainly, this would be the right time, but the sitting out of the national anthem at an NFL game is not the place.

The only tough part of dealing with this issue is the venue in which Kaepernick has decided to make his statement. After all, part of competing on a team is doing things together as a team, and it would seem reasonable for Kaepernick to stand with the rest of his teammates and then – if he wants to make his feelings known he should be more than welcome to stand on some platform after the game, or anytime during the week away from team activities.

More than the public, the NFL should have an issue with this stance – or lack thereof. This is a league, remember, that would not allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear a patch in support of local police on their uniforms following the police shooting in Dallas, and a league that does all that it can to keep its players literally in uniform.

It would only make sense for the league to step into the situation and mandate that a player does not have to stand for the anthem, but that if the player chooses that option he could simply join the club on the field after the anthem.

On some level, there should be some respect accorded Kaepernick’s decision. He had to know it would be met with much criticism, and he had to know it would make his life especially uncomfortable in the locker room and on the field.

The quarterback, who has another whole issue in terms of his viability as a player, was more than willing to answer questions. He did not hide, and he did not hide that fact that his stature and fat wallet are part of his ability to make such as statement.

Kaepernick believes the issues in the nation are much larger than his standing as a football player. He had to believe that the issue was so important that he would risk so much public ridicule.

And the ridicule has come hard and fast.

In many quarters the response has been as loud and passionate as the old cries of “America – Love it or Leave it” which resonated during the era of the Viet Nam war.

Many people have suggested that Kaepernick has disgraced America’s men and women in uniform when the only message the quarterback is trying to send is that there is a growing problem on these shores – and it is no small problem.

Kaepernick’s next move is what is truly important. This can not just be a “look-at-me” moment. Instead, it has to be a watch-me sequence in which Kaepernick does something to help the situation.

One of the truly encouraging developments after the fact is that there has actually been more middle-ground conversation than you might have expected in the past. Truly, everybody has a right to be outraged, and burning a jersey might help some people bring their blood pressure back toward normal as they shake their heads in disgust.

However, there has also been a fair amount of reasonable conversation among Americans about the problems we are all facing. There has been some reasonable conversation about why high-profile athletes might have a responsibility to use their stature to help get things changed.

The problem is the venue.

The problem is that Kaepernick was wearing a team uniform while making the statement. The problem is that Colin Kaepernick used the NFL, his team and his teammates as props for his statement.

And because of that, he gets far fewer props.