In 2016 Colin Kaepernick (hereafter: CK) began a controversy over demonstrations during the national anthem at football games. On September 3, Nike made him the face of its 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ marketing campaign.
So what does he have to say, and why do we care?
This is what he said:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
The key statement is his final sentence: “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Commentary after the fact is unanimous that CK was not referring to the black-on-black murder rate in Chicago and other besieged inner cities, rather that he was referring to police killings of young black men.
It’s obviously not true that police are “getting away with murder”. To support my assertion I note that CK doesn’t point to any single case where he disagrees with the disposition of a killing or an accusation of brutality, and I’ll also point you to the CNN chronology of these cases. The issues raised by Black Lives Matter are certainly worthy of discussion, but it’s a different topic. CK’s statement is unsupported by facts. and untrue.
CK has received a lot of love for sticking it to the man. The Louisville Courier Journal compared his stance to Muhammad Ali’s draft resistance. But, Ali was forced out of boxing at the peak of his career and lost four years of time in the ring. At the time CK began his national anthem protests his career was ending. He lost his starting job with the 49ers on week 9 of the previous season. Ali was self-sacrificing. CK is self-serving.
The bigger issue is: why are we paying attention to what CK says? Why do we pay ANY attention to political pronouncements by celebrities? George Clooney thinks the Citizens United decision should be overturned. Really, we shouldn’t even know this. We should not care…it’s like eating potato chips. Celebrities seldom have any actual knowledge to draw on, although there are exceptions: notably Angelina Jolie on refugees.
This attendance to celebrity spoutings echoes our problem with fake news. Fake news seldom appears in The New York Times or on CNN, but at some point Americans began taking their news from YouTube, BuzzFeed and Steven Colbert. We lost our ability to think critically, to be skeptical and detect nonsense when we hear it. Milkshakes are not nutrition. What you read in The National Enquirer is often just not true.
The Bottom Line
CK is spouting nonsense for his own benefit. Ditto Nike.
When a celebrity makes a political pronouncements, it is typically self-serving nonsense.
Don’t go to the candy aisle for nutrition, don’t go to Facebook for news.
Skepticism is good.