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Colin Kaepernick Did the Right Thing

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San Francisco  49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to again  sit down during the singing of the national anthem  due to his stance against this country’s unfair, unjust and racist treatment of African Americans and people of color. And in the process, a firestorm has erupted on line and off line. Many support his stance and others decry that it is unpatriotic. Some question his motives. Others say that he should do more than just a silent protest. Then there are others who say the silent protest is inappropriate.

Regardless of what persons think about Kaepernick’s actions, he has every right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protest in the manner that he chooses. It is really a mild form of protest—except that Kaepernick is a public sports figure. And that is causing the hail storm of comments and controversy.

Kaepernick’s stance came about from his concern of police killing black people and people of color with impunity while continuing to receive a pay check. From 12 year old Tamir Rice, 17 year old Laquan McDonald, 18 year old Michael Brown, 22 year old Oscar Grant, 25 year old Freddie Gray, 43 year old Eric Garner, 50 year old Walter Scott , just to name a few, the police have no age discrimination when it comes to killing blacks. Kaepernick dared to take a stand against these actions.

For those who know history, this is not the first time that an athlete or public figure has spoken out against discrimination in the U.S. The “greatest” Muhammad Ali was vocal against racial discrimination. In the 1960’s, Ali spoke about why he wouldn’t go to Vietnam to fight for our country stating our country would not fight for his rights here in America. And over 40 years later, there is still discrimination against returning black veterans who have fought abroad for our country. Many of those veterans gave online support of Kaepernick’s actions.

At the 1968 summer Olympics, U.S. Olympians gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their hands in the Black Power salute and lowered their heads in protest of racial injustice and inequality in the U.S., during the playing of the nation anthem. Both were later vilified by many at home in the U.S.

Symbolic silent protests on issues are not just made by black athletes. Recently last year, many officers of the New York City police department  stood but turned their backs on New York Mayor De Blasio as he spoke during an officer’s funeral. Some police officers felt that De Blasio disrespected them when he spoke about warning his son Dante to be wary of cops and the dangers posed by them for African Americans.  De Blasio ‘s son is biracial.  The lesson that De Blasio gave his son is one that many African Americans must teach their children daily about police.

 

In President Obama’s first term in office in September, 2009, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted out “you lie” to the president during his speech. Wilson’s response was in response to President Obama’s statement on undocumented immigrants. While the comment was distasteful, disrespectful and downright racist, Rep. Wilson has a constitutional right to protest President Obama. His protest actions against the leader of the U.S. far exceeded the present actions of Colin Kaepernick. And the House of Representatives issued a formal rebuke—albeit along party lines.

For many African Americans, the reasons behind Kaepernick’s actions come as no surprise. When then Senator Barack Obama was running for office in 2008, Michelle Obama made the statement that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She was almost instantly bombarded for her comments—viewed as negative by many white individuals. Yet, for me, when she made those comments, they resonated with my feelings about our country.

And standing in the cold frigid air in January, 2009 during the first inauguration of President Obama, I felt my first sense of patriotism and pride in the U.S. that I had felt in likely decades—far longer than I can even remember. I remember clutching the small American flag given to me. That moment was a very tiny speck on my patriotic spectrum. I woke up the day after the inauguration and saw that I was in the same America that discriminates daily against African Americans and people of color.

With all the police killings against African Americans and racism and hatred spewed daily towards African Americans, including against President Obama, I support Colin Kapernick’s actions. And he did the right thing.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political analyst and former prosecutor. She appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC, PBS and others.

 

 

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3 Responses to “Colin Kaepernick Did the Right Thing”

  1. Mike Sullivan says:

    I will not dispute the absolute right of Colin Kaepernic to voice his beliefs (I support that 100%), but when he is in the stadium he is a paid performer/entertainer who is indirectly payed by the attendees and pay per view cable subscribers. They do not pay their fees to watch political/social comments. He should save his personal thoughts for his personal time, he certainly could get face time on ESPN, print media, the web, and the like.

    If you were building a new house and a contractor on the project stopped to tell you to vote Trump every time you went to see how construction was going, would you support his rights while working on your property? What if he wrote political slogans on the lumber that would never be seen after the house was finished? Maybe you would suggest he stay focused on what he is being payed to do?

    When Mohammad Ali protested the draft it wasn’t in the ring, it was during his personal time during interviews. As a lawyer what would transpire if you made a personal protest during a trial in the court room not related to the case (maybe something as simple as refusing to rise for the judge), what would the judge say, how would your client react? I could go on and on where personal feelings should not be displayed “while on the clock”, but I think you get my point.

    I read your blog regularly, sometimes disagreeing (not always), but happy to read opposing views and gain insight. You scribe from the heart and I rarely read anything “mean spirited”, so I applaud you on that! I would enjoy a short reply if you have a chance.

    Thank you.

    –Mike Sullivan

  2. Debbie Hines says:

    Mike,

    Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read LegalSpeaks. At first glance, I see your point, particularly when you make the comparison to Ali. Most public figures are never considered on their private time by many people. And NFL players must abide by the NFL rules which accepts Kaepernick’s actions, in this instance. Notably, on Thursday,he changed to taking a knee while the anthem played. And he has also indicated he will pay his first $1 million of his salary to various organizations.

    I disagree with those who state that Kaepernick should vocally express his actions outside of a stadium and presumably on his own time. He would still be bound by the NFL rules, even off the field. And then many persons would take offense to his spoken words. In my opinion, his actions were respectful while expressing his viewpoint.

    As a lawyer, l am allowed to express my socially conscious actions in the court room. On occasions, I have worn a lapel pin bearing the image of Martin Luther King bearing the words “Build the Dream” in the court room–even in primarily white jurisdictions. But another lawyer, John Harvey, in the 1990’s wore a kente cloth shawl around his neck, perhaps as a sign of racial pride and was asked by a DC Superior Court judge to remove it. No one objected except the judge. The judge removed him from the (appointed) case as he objected to the removal of the kente cloth. Most legal experts including constitutional law experts disagreed with the judge.

    This is a long way of saying that the manner in which someone chooses to silently protest or make a silent first amendment statement even while being “on the clock” should not be considered inappropriate as being in the wrong place. So we will have to agree to disagree.

  3. Mike Sullivan says:

    Thank you so very much for your reply. I know that you must be extremely busy. Darn, now I am taking even more of your time, sorry.

    I do so appreciate/accept your “agree to disagree” opinion, it’s so much more refreshing than the high decibel choruses on the news networks (all channels included), and Facebook messaging (wow, those people can be vicious!) I think if everyone could share dissenting opinions without the vitriol we might be able to start addressing/solving problems…huh???? That’s why I am only moderately concerned about Kaepernic’s protest, it was done respectfully.

    From the time I was little, my father (a truly devout liberal Democratic black man) taught me to listen to and read everything (all sides) with an open mind. All these decades later I cling to that philosophy, sincerely hoping to be a better person. While I lean conservative (maybe libertarian), Dad was always proud that I followed his advice, even when we “agreed to disagree”.

    On the John Harvey issue, I thought that most jurisdictions have discretionary rules such as “A lawyer shall refrain from acting upon or manifesting racial, gender or other bias or prejudice toward any participant in the legal process.” Is it possible the judge was influenced by such a rule? Aren’t there judicial commissions/boards to settle such disputes? Sorry I am not a lawyer, heck I barely got out of Detroit Public schools.

    So I shall keep an eye on your blog, it is excellent, whether agreeing or not.

    BE WELL

    –Mike Sullivan

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