Monday, August 29, 2016

Great Speeches, Colin, Now Let's See What You Can Do

Colin Kaepernick press conference (AP/Chronicle photo)
...but did he have to wear a Fidel Castro T-shirt?
Three and a half years ago, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the toast of the Bay Area. Through spectacular performances he led the 49ers to the brink of a Super Bowl championship but couldn't close the deal when his team was less than 10 yards away with a minute to go. Despite the loss, a Super Bowl championship in the near future seemed assured.

However, injuries began to slow him down. Worse, opponents figured out his weaknesses. Defenses bunched up to stop his running and dared him to pass. He couldn't read defenses quickly enough, and the team foundered. The 49ers missed the playoffs for the last two years, and his starting position was in jeopardy. Colin Kaepernick was close to being washed up at the age of 28.

Last week he refused to stand for the National Anthem at a preseason game because of the highly publicized deaths of innocent black men at the hands of police. Already a contentious issue with many facets--"black lives matter," "blue lives matter," "all lives matter," racism, classism, colonialism, and other -isms being flung about for good measure--Colin Kaepernick's action triggered a firestorm (literally, as some burned his jersey). Also, his words didn't exactly have a calming effect:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
The good sense of the American people and the entire NFL seems to be prevailing, however, with substantial majorities defending his right to speak his beliefs while disagreeing with the way he went about doing it. Count me in the majority in both cases.

Now, can we just get back to football? In the NFL winning is everything, and it's an unfortunate reality that Colin Kaepernick will be listened to more attentively if he's a winner, not a whiner. As Chris Ault, his college coach in Nevada wrote:
“Guys like him can make a difference....but it’s just a lot easier to make that point when you’re excelling on the field. I’m hoping that the vicious competitor I know steps up and becomes a difference-maker for all his endeavors — on and off the field.”

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