The battle of wills between Colin Kaepernick and the National Football League is over. Colin Kaepernick and the cause that he has championed, Black Lives Matter are the clear winners. It was a walkover. The final whistle has not blown, but the NFL find themselves the equivalent of a football team losing 52 to 0 late in the 4th quarter. The final gun will be a formality, Don Meredith would long ago have sung, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”
During the last season, while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick registered a protest over what he considered to be race related shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers. The First Amendment tells us the merits or lack of merits of his argument are irrelevant. The First Amendment protects his right to express his beliefs.
Many critics have said that Colin showed disrespect for the flag and the National Anthem by kneeling instead of standing. That is so much poppycock. He chose to kneel respectfully with head bowed instead of standing to make his point. He certainly succeeded. He was not showing disrespect for anything but calling attention to a life and death matter. It was the fans in the stands who were talking or texting on their cell phones during the National Anthem who were showing disrespect, but they were not in the spotlight.
Colin Kaepernick became a free agent at the end of last season. Suddenly an experienced starting quarterback with Super Bowl experience does not get a single job offer. The National Football League has 32 teams, most of whom carry 3 quarterbacks on their roster. An undergraduate student of economics would quickly recognize that the teams of the NFL are acting as a cartel. Those of us who have been around the track a couple of times suspect advice of counsel. The NFL retains some really high powered lawyers who hide behind their magnificent office suites, Harvard Law degrees and astounding fee schedules to provide some really stupid advice.
What they should have done is respond to Colin’s statement with one of their own. They could have taken the high road and issued a well written declaration of their commitment to racial equality and stated that while they disapproved of Colin’s manner of expression, they understood his First Amendment rights. More than fifty percent of the players in the NFL are black. The NFL could have used that fact to show their support of racial equality.
Instead of taking the high road they demonstrated to the world that they were a cartel of 32 rich, mostly white, ownership groups who want their black employees to do their job and shut up. Their hard nosed, idiotic boycott gave Colin Kaepernick, and more importantly, Black Lives Matter, tens of millions of dollars of free publicity. As the new season approaches and Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed the extent of the collusion among the NFL owners becomes more evident and more indefensible. It seems the NFL lacks an exit strategy. Before a recent game, thirty members of the Cleveland Browns stood during the National Anthem, but in a line away from the rest of the team, with their arms linked and their heads bowed. Colin’s protest is spreading in prime time.
I must admit a possible bias. Colin Kaepernick played football for the University of Nevada, Reno. I believe he received a degree. In 1963 I received a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Nevada in Reno. In 1959 I had received a BA degree from Northeastern University, with High Honors, in Sociology, in Boston. In 1968 I received a PhD in Financial Economics from UCLA. Three degrees, three universities, spread from coast to coast. Of the three, my overwhelming favorite was the University of Nevada. My graduate seminars usually had between 3 and 5 students. I went out drinking with the bachelor faculty members every weekend. Nevada, while the 6th largest state in the nation in size has a small population. The frontier spirit is alive and well on the University of Nevada campus. It prides itself as a remnant of the old Wild West.
In the years when I was there, Nevada was still the only state with legal gaming. Eventually, other states figured out how lucrative the gaming business could be to generate tax revenue, and casinos spread across the country. Nevada did it first.
I see in Colin Kaepernick’s brave crusade the pioneer spirit that is woven into the warp of campus life at the University of Nevada, Reno. In my day, Reno was known as the Mississippi of the West. Racial segregation was evidenced by the black gaming district which was necessitated by the fact that blacks were not welcome in the white casinos. Things are better in Reno today but racial strife is part of the Reno heritage.
The University of Nevada, Reno is part of the intellectual frontier. The Wild West heritage of the university translates itself into the encouragement of free thinking on the part of the students. The frontier of the Wild West has been transformed into student inquiry at the leading edge of a variety of academic disciplines. These disciplines include racial relations in this country. They are not ideal. They will not improve if we continue to sweep them under the rug.
Thank you Colin for showing the courage that exemplifies the spirit of the frontier. Go Wolf Pack.
Professor Joe Launie is a Professor Emeritus of Risk Management at California State University,
Northridge. His latest book is “The Road to the Ox Carts”, where he warns that continued abuse of the middle class by the government may lead to an insurrection.