Before Colin Kaepernick took a knee and became a movement, he was a pretty good football player. And then, he wasn’t anymore. Whether his foray into social activism coincided with his athletic devolution is debatable, but it is clear that we would not be talking about the fellow today if he were practicing his throws instead of scolding white society for being racist.
And that’s his right, as many of his supporters have told me in the days, weeks and months since he became famous for kneeling. As far as protests go, it’s pretty tame stuff. But the people around Kaepernick are not quite as innocuous, including his girlfriend, Nessa Diab, who tweeted out a racist picture of Ray Lewis. Diab juxtaposed a photo of Lewis hugging Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti with a shot of Samuel L. Jackson’s slave hugging Leonardo DiCaprio’s master in “Django Unchained.”
The implication was unmistakable: Black athletes who don’t disrespect the flag or the national anthem are Uncle Toms, while people like Kaepernick are heroic.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with the politicization of sports. It was bad enough when Eagles fans started boycotting games because they didn’t like the fact that reformed dog torturer Michael Vick was on the team (and can I say he turned out to be one of the most decent and humble men to ever wear the green and white?).
But now it’s really gotten out of hand, with people caring more about what happens off the field (or court, or ice) than on, and grafting their political grievances onto the games themselves. We have Colin K, weeping about the racism inherent in denying a job to a washed-up athlete with too much baggage (and a girlfriend who should be zipped up in one of them). We have ESPN giving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner instead of a courageous teen who died of brain cancer, primarily because Jenner changed from male to female on a Diane Sawyer prime-time special. I have to say that if acquiring a set of breasts is considered courageous, half of Hollywood should have qualified for the award.
And speaking of ESPN, the network has produced a cottage industry of hysterical, “you can’t make these up” gaffes that show just how far up the derriere of political correctness they’ve traveled. First, there was the decision to remove a broadcaster named Robert Lee from covering a football game at the University of Virginia because they were worried that, in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, it would seem tasteless. Robert Lee is Asian American and has about as much to do with the Confederate general as Vivien Leigh.
Then there was the debacle of Sergio (I’m not making this up) Dipp, who spent his inaugural appearance on the network by rambling on about how wonderful diversity and immigrants and all that stuff is, when the people who are paying to watch a football game didn’t give a damn about the cultural heritage of the coach and just wanted to hear some marginally coherent commentary from the sideline. He explained his performance as follows: “All I wanted to do was to show some respect, making my debut as a minority on American national TV, the biggest stage out there, on the most heartfelt day in this great country made up by immigrants, but on some people’s perspective, it all went wrong.”
That “most heartfelt day” was 9/11 and frankly, it wasn’t a time to extol the virtues of immigrants, especially not at a football game.
But ESPN has decided that it must now carry the water for the social justice warriors and inject its own view of how the world should be into the sports arena. So when Curt Schilling wrote, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much,” he was immediately fired. But when Jemele Hill, another employee, tweets, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” she gets a finger wagged in her face and the network comes out with “We have addressed this with Jemele and she realizes her actions were inappropriate.” And she still gets a paycheck and a covert wink from the higher-ups.
I wonder why Schilling wasn’t given the same consideration. I wonder why starring in a reality show is courageous. I wonder why worrying about triggering snowflakes with someone named Lee is an issue, and why some Dipp goes all Emma Lazarus on Monday Night Football.
Christine Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.