Friday, 2 September 2016

Gladiators Don't Get Paid to Sing (or, That's Enterainment)

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, there is big news from the sports front.

No - not the end of Tim Lincecum's career, or the Giants' struggle to catch the Dodgers.  

Guess again.  Hint: it's about football.  

No. There is not much intrigue about the 49ers' preseason, either.  It's a foregone conclusion that the team is going to be terrible again.

No.  It's about the recent eructations of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and it has nothing to do with the fact that his career is apparently over.  

Well, maybe it is about that, indirectly.

You see, recently, Kaepernick (benched last year so that a guy called Blaine Gabbert - yeah, I never heard of him, either - could play) made headlines when he sat during the playing of the national anthem at a preseason game, then announced his reasoning for that, and his future refusal to stand.  You see, a guy who is being paid $126 million dollars does not want to show "pride in a flag or country that oppresses black people and people of color (sic)."

Kaepernick is no stranger to controversey; in the past, he has been fined for using abusive language on the field, and for wearing the wrong brand of headphones ("Beats by Dre" rather than then NFL 'official' headphones provided by Bose) at a press conference.  

Who knew that there was an official NFL headset?  And I guess I am equally nonplussed about why you would wear headphones to a post-game interview.

While the NFL already has an official head set, Kaepernick, it seems, has worked to become the league's unofficial head case.

The events have raised a ruckus, with the usual suspects and usual arguments lining up for and against Colin Kaepernick. A question I hear often is "why does Kaepernick get so much hate in the US, when it's supposed to be a country based on freedom?"

It's an odd question, and one that I think misses the point.

Whether Kaepernick gets “a hot of hate” or not has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom in the US.

For what it’s worth, I really have no opinion about Colin Kapaernick's views of the flag, what it stands for, or whether he wants to sit or stand during the national anthem. As the question suggests, in this country any of us is entitled to his or her own views and opinions. 

Kaepernick is an entertainer. He's an entertainer of a particular sort - a modern day gladiator. He’s paid to throw a football (when he plays). He's paid very well to do this. His views on politics are as relevant to me as his views on the Academy Awards, the weather in Nebraska, or whether “We Built this City on Rock and Roll” really is, as Rolling Stone magazine claims, the worst song ever.

It won’t change my views on any of the topics.

To be clear, Colin Kaepernick has every right to his opinion about any of these topics. I respect his right to say what he pleases, and in a sense, the freedoms we have in this country to speech and belief are nothing if they do not protect unpopular opinions.  As I've said before, it's easy to defend speech we like; the acid test is whether we stand up (or sit down) for views that are unpopular, or indeed, are ones we personally do not like. I also am not particularly fond of bumper sticker patriotism, as if sticking an "I Support the Troops" emblem on your car absolves one of the responsibility to actually support the troops by not sending them to fight in senseless wars, or pay the taxes needed to pay for their care when they come home damaged.

But just as Kaepernick is entitled to his opinion, so too are those who are giving him “a lot of hate.”

Freedom is available to all, one would hope, equally. Kaepernick should not be afforded special protections for his opinions because he is an athlete. One presumes that he made his statement to provoke a reaction - otherwise, why do it? 

Maybe a big problem here is that Colin Kaepernick and his supporters do not like the reaction he is getting?

Whilst we are on the subject, I would ask people who are rushing to defend Kaepernick for his “courageous” stance - just how courageous was it, and if the shoe were on the other foot, would you feel the same?

It’s a rhetorical question, and I am sure many would defend someone taking a stance against one of their beliefs equally. But not everyone does, or would.

I live in San Francisco, and every year, the Giants participate in an “Until There’s a Cure” event drawing attention to the AIDS crisis and supporting people and their loved ones who suffer with HIV.

Imagine if one of the Giants’ players decided to make a very public display against participating in the ceremonies? I suspect his actions would be much less popular in the Bay Area than Kaepernick’s were.

One needn’t imagine.

20 years ago, a pitcher named Mark Dewey (I think an evangelical Christian) took the red ribbon his team was made to wear and turned it sideways (in the shape of a fish) and refused to be on the field for the ceremony. His actions received immediate, angry, responses. Local politicians officially complained to the Giants’ management.

I don’t know that any local politician has thus far written to the 49ers asking that the team discipline Kaepernick. Donald Trump of course could not resist the urge to open his YUUUGE mouth and weigh in.

Like Kaepernick, I do not really care what Dewey’s opinions on virtually anything are. But I find that both sides in these sorts of feet-stamping displays are pretty hypocritical.

We pay to see our gladiators compete on the field. Or, in the recent history of Colin Kaepernick, sit on the bench. That is their job. 

They should leave the singing to the vocalists.
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