Kaeper­nick’s abil­ity to play should be enough

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNYDER

Shut up and stick to fill-in-the­blank. For former Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, it was act­ing. For former Con­gress­man Sonny Bono, it was singing. For former U.S. Se­na­tor Bill Bradley, it was bas­ket­ball.

Why do some folks in­sist on plac­ing others in a box that lim­its their ex­pres­sion? We turn to movies, mu­sic and sports as a form of es­cape, but ask­ing per­form­ers to oth­er­wise be si­lent is self­ish. An in­abil­ity to sep­a­rate great scenes, riffs or plays from en­ter­tain­ers’ thoughts is a “you” prob­lem.

Granted, en­joy­ing the work of some­one who com­mit­ted heinous acts like sex­ual as­sault or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can be a strug­gle. That’s more un­der­stand­able than re­ject­ing the artistry of some­one whose opin­ion on, say, po­lice bru­tal­ity or racial in­jus­tice, dif­fers from yours. Some con­sumers might have a prob­lem with any

ex­pres­sion of thought (Blue Lives Mat­ter?), but too of­ten the re­sent­ment is caused by dis­agree­ment with ex­pressed thoughts.

In that case, some foot­ball fans surely were un­happy with por­tions of the speeches Sat­ur­day dur­ing the Pro Foot­ball NFL Hall of Fame in­duc­tion cer­e­mony. Former San Diego Charg­ers half­back LaDainian Tom­lin­son had the nerve to talk about his great-great­great grand­fa­ther be­ing a slave and how Amer­ica should ful­fill the prom­ise of lib­erty and jus­tice all.

Former Seat­tle Sea­hawks safety Kenny Easley went a step fur­ther. He de­voted one minute of his 22-minute speech to a so­cial stance that can get a player black­balled.

“Black lives do mat­ter, and all lives mat­ter, too,” Easley said. “... We’ve got to stand up as a coun­try, as black Amer­i­cans and fight the good fight to pro­tect our youth and our Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tional right not to die while driv­ing or walk­ing the streets black in Amer­ica. It has to stop, and we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help.”

Yes, sports can teach lessons. But that doesn’t guar­an­tee we’ll pass the ex­ams.

Con­sider the case of former 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick. His former NFL coaches, Chip Kelly and John Har­baugh, vouch for his de­meanor and work ethic. His former team­mates de­fend him, too, de­bunk­ing claims that his kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them caused a dis­trac­tion. Also, ap­prox­i­mately 99 per­cent of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans who ex­pressed opin­ions found on Google sup­ported the QB’s stance, a protest that Kaeper­nick in March said he’d dis­con­tinue.

But in­stead of tak­ing those facts into ac­count and con­clud­ing that Kaeper­nick de­serves a job based on his abil­ity, NFL own­ers are col­lud­ing to re­ject him based on his so­cial ac­tivism. They point to fans who threaten to boy­cott their team if he’s signed, just like fans who say they stopped watch­ing the NFL last sea­son in re­sponse to the protests.

You’d think NFL own­ers were smarter than that. (Then again, a lot of sup­pos­edly smart peo­ple have proven to be in­cred­i­bly stupid the last nine months.)

Re­cent re­ports pro­claimed that an­them protests were the lead­ing rea­son for the NFL’s 8 per­cent de­cline in TV rat­ings last sea­son. Aha! Fi­nally, there’s proof that own­ers ex­er­cise sound busi­ness judg­ment by leav­ing Kaeper­nick un­signed.

But a closer in­spec­tion of the sur­vey — you know, be­yond the in­cen­di­ary head­line — re­veals the truth.

An over­whelm­ing per­cent­age of fans were un­ruf­fled by the demon­stra­tions. Eighty-eight per­cent of re­spon­dents said they watched the same amount of foot­ball or more com­pared to 2015. Of the 12 per­cent who re­ported watch­ing less, about one-quar­ter blamed Kaeper­nick and play­ers who fol­lowed suit.

In other words, about 3 per­cent of more than 9,200 to­tal re­spon­dents said they tuned out be­cause they were turned off. About 2.8 per­cent said they watched less foot­ball be­cause of is­sues like do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or ex­ces­sive game de­lays.

For the vast ma­jor­ity of us, we watched as much as ever — if not more. The hope is we see it like Tom­lin­son, whose 25-minute speech drew sev­eral stand­ing ova­tions and was hailed as one of the great­est ever de­liv­ered dur­ing HOF week­end.

“Foot­ball is a mi­cro­cosm of Amer­ica,” he said. “All races, re­li­gions and creeds, liv­ing, play­ing, com­pet­ing side by side. When you’re part of a team, you un­der­stand your team­mates — their strengths and weak­nesses — and work to­gether to­ward the same goal, to win a cham­pi­onship In this con­text, I ad­vo­cate we be­come Team Amer­ica.

“On Amer­ica’s team, let’s not choose to be against one an­other. Let’s choose to be for one an­other. My great-great-great grand­fa­ther had no choice. We have one. I pray we ded­i­cate our­selves to be the best team we can be, work­ing and liv­ing to­gether, rep­re­sent­ing the high­est ideals of mankind, lead­ing the way for all na­tions to fol­low.”

For LT, those ideals are more im­por­tant than lead­ing the league in rush­ing (twice) or yards from scrim­mage (once). It’s more im­por­tant than hav­ing the most rush­ing touch­downs or be­ing a first-team All-Pro (three times each).

Ku­dos to en­ter­tain­ers whose pri­or­i­ties are in order be­fore they re­tire. Es­pe­cially those brave enough to use the plat­form while they have it.

Shut­ting up and stick­ing to fill-inthe-blank would be a dis­ser­vice to them­selves. Worse, their si­lence would dis­honor those who fought, bled and died for the right to speak up.

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