When embattled 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, decided to sit for the singing of the national anthem, he was assured of headlines, but for the wrong reasons.
Kaepernick is a big personality on a big stage who despite considerable talent has been a disappointment to fans that hoped for better on the playing field.
He still has a chance to make his mark if the new 49er coach can rebuild a team decimated by the loss of key players, others under arrest for misconduct and numerous front office mistakes.
However the drama surrounding the quarterback has little to do with football and everything to do with his wanting to be someone more than just—well—a struggling football player.
The platform he is using—a microphone on one of the biggest stages in all sports—certainly boosts his communication advantages, but the message he seeks to convey is more important.
His defiant stand comes at a time when misguided flag-waving zealots are backing one of the biggest phonies ever to run for the presidency, in an election more divisive than any in modern times.
One cause of so much discontent, though by no means the only factor, is the upsurge of racial unrest in many regions of the nation which are seeing street violence vaguely reminiscent of far worse eruptions over a half century ago.
Bigotry and intolerance have left their stain on many communities to no small extent aided by the reckless declarations of one individual who believes he should be the next president.
While Kaepernick made no allusion to Donald Trump’s hateful vitriol which has targeted women, Mexicans, Muslims and minorities in general, the contrasts are difficult to escape.
Kaepernick, who has relatives that have served their nation honorably in the military happens to be a black man whose Americanism is no more in doubt than the current president, a black man himself whose birthright just like Kaepernick’s patriotism Trump has questioned.
The quarterback made it clear that he was calling out racial injustice which continues in many cities 52 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act.
After what are seen as racially motivated killings in Baltimore, Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Charleston and now Minneapolis bringing the total to at least 123 black deaths so far in 2016 according to the Washington Post, equal treatment for all is still a distant goal.
Kaepernick pursues an occupation that is the embodiment of diversity hard fought for long after Jackie Robinson had the audacity to break the color barrier in baseball in 1947. Yet in 2016 someone can run for America’s top job spewing prejudice and attract millions of voters.
Regrettably when some police are guilty of excessive use of force involving minority offenders, it implicates good cops along with bad ones. Criminal activity by anyone is unacceptable nor an excuse for police misconduct.
But that misses the point.
Kaepernick could have put a bumper sticker on his car opposing racial injustice and maybe gotten two paragraphs. He wanted to start a conversation and he has.
When millions of young people protested our involvement in the Vietnam War and Iraq, they were simply doing what our Constitution and laws allow us to do.
Those same laws permit dangerous demagogues to run remarkably unscathed for the nation’s highest office.
Both Kaepernick and Trump know how to seize the moment, but there the similarity ends. One is saying in a just nation everyone has responsibility. The other is saying we are responsible only for ourselves.
Kaepernick is not a notable civil rights leader. That label belongs to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Medgar Evers.
But he is not defiling the flag either by asserting the rights for which it stands. Trump, who happens to be a white man, stands for everything which would take away those rights.
Kaepernick need make no apologies but it would be nice if he could engineer some touchdowns. Meanwhile, voters have more pressing decisions to make on Election Day.