Colin Kaepernick insists he stands up for the oppressed by sitting down for the national anthem.
“Yes, I’ll continue to sit,” Kaepernick told the press on Sunday. “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
So, instead of thinking about America for the Sunday afternoon “Star Spangled Banner,” we now think about Colin Kaepernick. People outside of San Francisco didn’t think much about Colin Kaepernick, at least for the last several seasons, until Friday night. A stunt on the sidelines eclipsed his slumps on the field. And perhaps that’s the point. When Kaepernick gets cut, or relegated to holding a clipboard, he can rationalize that his politics rather than his performance killed his career. But the irony here is that because players called Chip Kelly racist last year in Philadelphia this year in San Francisco he may hesitate to cut a player calling America racist.
Kaepernick’s quarterback rating keeps decreasing every year since his breakout sophomore season. The ratio of interceptions to touchdowns gets worse every year since 2012, too. Unlike Steve Young, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and other double-threat quarterbacks, Kaepernick never quite caught on. He played brilliantly in leading San Francisco to Super Bowl 47. But the NFL figured him out. And he never really figured the NFL out.
The same holds true for Kaepernick and the national anthem. It’s not an ode to government officials or a sonic high-five to everything ever done in America. It’s about “the land of the free and the home of the brave” written from the perspective of one seeing the national standard flying as the artillery dropped during the War of 1812. “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” lend themselves better to the emotions of the listener and the talents of the performer. But the history behind the words of “The Star Spangled Banner,” an eyewitness account of the flag’s defiance in the face of British bombardment in Baltimore Harbor, gives the song an authenticity. Like Colin Kaepernick, “The Star Spangled Banner” keeps it real.
Kaepernick keeps it real jayvee on the field. And that gets overlooked in conversations about him know. The boos he hears this season on the road, he soon tells himself, come from racists. But what about the boos in Santa Clara? The Bay Area welcomed such an eclectic cast of characters as the Emperor Norton, Allen Ginsberg, Anton LaVey, and Jim Jones. But their tolerance stops for a guy who ranked 30th in completion percentage, 31st in yards per attempt, and 31st in passer rating the previous season.
“No, I don’t see it being a distraction,” he insisted on Sunday morning. “It’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country.”
Kaepernick’s arrogant contempt unifies the country all right. Contra the quarterback, the disrespect certainly distracts. The Jedi Mind Trick makes us forget that Colin Kaepernick makes Elvis Grbac look like Joe Montana. Look down atop Lombard Street and you glimpse the trajectory of Kaepernick’s career.
Guys who no longer stand out on the field sit down on the bench. That’s what Colin Kaepernick did on Friday night. For two minutes every Sunday, he wants us to think why he sits. And he does this because he wants us to forget why he sits for the other three hours.