Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Fifty-Eight: The Pigskin Knight Who Knelt

It’s been a whole year since former-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (who will be referred to in this episode as “Kappa Kap”, due to his Kappa Alpha Psi membership) decided to protest the national anthem at the start of NFL football games, and with it, has come a whole year of a divided country on whether his stand has merit. Kap, who came out of nowhere last year with this sentiment, said that he chose to do this to speak against the ongoing issues regarding police brutality against Black people in America, which has seen black people – especially black men aged 19-34 – killed at a very disproportionate rate than any other demographic in the country over the last five years. The killings of Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, and Philando Castle as well as scores of others seemingly came and went, almost as fads in the same, horror-and-anger fueled cycles: where protests where held, hash tags were created, the officers involved were indicted, then acquitted, and no one ever faces any true justice for their deaths. Sure, settlements were involved in some of these deaths – Tamir Rice’s family was awarded $6 million, and Mr. Castile’s family received $3 million – but all that did was try to buy the city’s negligence in excusing an officer to shoot to kill instead of police.

Most of this nation-wide trend went unnoticed in sports – until Kappa Kap stepped, or should I say, kneeled in.

By refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, Kap shocked and angered many in the nation. “How dare he disrespect the flag and all those who died and serve for it!” became the battle cry to people opposing his actions. Even after explaining his views, it didn’t matter. Most saw Kap’s actions as nearly treasonous, proclaiming that Kap was “un-American’, “a spoiled millionaire”, and “ungrateful to his country” for not paying homage to the flag and song which symbolizes our nation. This went on for the rest of the season. Kap continued his protest, and other players joined in: some chose to kneel with it, others raised a fist – the symbol for “Black Power” – in solidarity. This didn’t stop with the NFL, either. Youth teams, soccer players, cheerleaders, even marching band members also felt the needed to express their outrage of law enforcement’s overall treatment of minorities, and took to the field to show.

Kap’s movement had begun.

So now, fast forward to today, on the cusp of the Hall of Fame game – which officially starts the NFL’s pre-season. After opting out of his last year with the San Francisco 49ers, Kappa Kap still remains an unsigned QB. Some folk have delighted into Kap not having a job – including our fearless leader, 45, who made a point on one of his “cheer-for-me-and-my-greatness” rallies to take personal credit for why Kap hasn’t been signed as of today. There are others who have vowed to not watch a minute of the NFL season until Kap is signed to a team. And who could blame them? We have been told that Kap’s absence is “a team’s decision” when this clearly reeks of him being blackballed. Many owners have already been quoted behind closed doors as saying they would NEVER sign Kap and “Fuck that guy. He’s a traitor.” This is what I – as well as anyone with any real sense of logic in their brains – is having trouble coming to terms with.

An owner’s #1 priority to their team is to fund the means to put together the best product they can, both in entertainment value and actual competitiveness. After all, what good are your sports team if you suck ass every year? If you’ve been following football for the past year, you’ve heard Kap’s stats 2016 repeatedly: tossing 16 touchdowns, only throwing four interceptions, as well as nearly 500 yards rushing, and two TDs, garnering an 90.7 overall passer rating. Those stats aren’t mind-blowing, but they are very serviceable. The stats also seem like Pro Bowl-type stats when stacked up to others who not only have been started last year, but also have been signed to other teams, or re-sign to their 2016 squad. Here are some of the QBs that have been snatched up on teams that had worse seasons than Kap:

Case Keenum (LA Rams) – 10 starts: 9 TDs, 11 INTs, 2201 yds, 76.4 rating

Ryan Fitzpatrick (NY Jets) – 14 starts: 12 TDs, 14INTs, 2710 yds, 69.6 rating

Brock Osweiler (Houston) – 15 starts: 15 TDs, 15 INTs, 2957 yds, 72.2 rating

Josh McCown (Cleveland) – 5 starts: 6TDs, 6INTs, 2109 yds, 72.3 rating

I could go on here, but you see this point. This clearly isn’t about football. Look, it’s obvious that Kappa Kap could start on about 5-7 teams, but he can be a backup on every team, no question. So, this is not a football option. Not when the Baltimore Ravens has express deep interest of signing him. Not when the coach, John Harbaugh and the GM Ozzie Newsome has said they would sign it, but the owner, Steve Biscotti has pushed it down. Not when other teams have actually reached out to Kap, and nothing has been transpired. Don’t tell us this is about football, when he has CLEAR evidence to the contrary. Don’t insult our intelligence. We’re not buying it; in fact, this league is turning off more fans when this happens.

I think the biggest thing here that’s pissing a lot of us off here is the outright and blatant hypocrisy used by owners and detractors of Kappa Kap’s actions. Here is a man who has committed no crime, been a decent citizen, and has actively engaged in community relations, both in the United States and abroad, donating everything from suits to clothes to his salary (to the tune of a few millions) to better the world in which we all live in. Yet, players who have been arrested on charges ranging from DUIs to assault to disorderly conduct to yes, even domestic violence (even after the whole Ray Rice debacle and the year-long crusade the NFL took to combat DV) and have still been given chance after chance after stupefying chance. It just makes you wonder why standing up for your first Amendment rights is a cardinal sin, but hurting people and endangering the lives of people on the road is not.

Here’s the moral of this story: Kappa Kap is a knight. A knight for social justice, not seen in sports since the day of Muhammad Ali, who was stripped of his title for reducing to enlist in the Army during the Vietnam war. He too, was vilified and chastised by the public, but managed to win the hearts of everyone again and was universally loved at the time of his death. This knight of the pigskin may never see that type of admiration – especially amongst law enforcement supporters – inn his lifetime, but have won the respect of many people. This knight showed the world that even in risking your career for taking a stand, you could come out a champion to the people. In a time where players are more paid than ever and are mainly focused on “building their brand” even more so than winning championship, this Pigskin Knight gave us a light that showed that money and fame is sometime just not worth staying silent when you see the chance to make an impact. Kappa Kap is not being “punished” for kneeling; he’s being punished for inspiring others, young and old, male and female, minority and majority, to let your voice be heard, even if it means saying nothing at all, and letting your actions do all the talking.

Who says bending the knee is always a bad thing?

 

8/3/17

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