Colin Kaepernick chose not to vote in the 2016 presidential election. As we approach the important midterms, we should remember how that decision came back to haunt him.
Few Americans have been direct victims of Donald Trump’s destructive and divisive vendettas as Kaepernick has. Trump made it his personal mission to turn the country against the former National Football League quarterback, forcing Americans to choose between freedom of expression and the president’s interpretation of patriotism.
He has suggested that Kaepernick should go live in another country if he does not respect the American flag enough to stand when the national anthem is being played. He was the impetus for a smear campaign that Kaepernick maintains has kept him out of work, and threatens to permanently end his career.
We can only hope that by now, Kaepernick has learned how wrong his decision to stay home was. Maybe now, he understands why you cannot leave it up to others to choose the nation’s leaders for you.
To many, he lost his hero status when he revealed that he did not vote.
The then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback told reporters days after Trump was elected president that he “really didn’t pay too close of attention” to the election.
“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” he said. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression.
“And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there. The system still remains intact that oppresses people of color.”
That’s fools’ talk. It certainly isn’t something that would come out of the mouth of a real hero.
In recent weeks, I’ve been focusing my attention on people who refuse to vote, for whatever reason. I am particularly tired of the hypocrites who appear to be politically astute in public but actually are just chronic complainers in real life.
Don’t get me wrong. I still support Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before football games. In other words, I have great respect for the cause, but my respect for the man has been severely compromised.
The message Kaepernick is sending about police brutality is an important one. I’m still glad that he decided to bring attention to one of the most complicated, divisive and misunderstood issues of our time. Police brutality is real, and it will continue to flourish until we, as a nation, decide to no longer tolerate it.
But like many others, I’m struggling with the ugly truth about someone I deeply admired. I am angry with Kaepernick, and I feel betrayed by him. But mostly I am disappointed in him.
The fact that Kaepernick chose not to vote makes me sometimes wonder who he really is. It makes me question whether he’s as smart as I thought he was. It makes me question whether he is the right person to be the face of such an important movement.
It makes me wonder whether he even understands what it means to be an American. It makes me think that while he exudes confidence, he is very much lost.
It has left me somewhat suspicious of his motives. It makes me less proud of Nike for using him in an ad campaign. It makes me realize that it was a mistake for GQ magazine to name him citizen of the year in 2017.
For some, Kaepernick is not the definition of a positive role model. In fact, he may be detrimental.
When someone as high profile as Kaepernick acknowledges publicly that he did not vote, it gives other Americans an excuse for being too lazy to cast their ballot. It gives validation to their decision to sit an election out when choosing a candidate is too tough. It allows them to convince themselves of the warped notion that voting is not a duty, but a choice.
It allows nonvoters to feel as if they are in good company, that they are somehow more enlightened than the rest of us, and that they have no reason to feel ashamed.
It seeks to normalize voter apathy. And that’s something this country cannot afford - especially now.
According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 Americans who were eligible to vote in 2016 did not do so. After taking an extra step to validate those who said they did vote, Pew arrived at an interesting conclusion. The people who sat the 2016 election out were just as responsible for Trump’s victory as those who actually cast their ballots for him. Here’s what we know about the nonvoters who helped elect Trump: They were likely to be younger, less educated, less affluent and nonwhite, compared with the verified voters. And nonvoters were much more Democrat than Republican.
Kaepernick may not fit into any of these categories, but he’s no different than the rest of them. They all let their country down.
The irony is that by not voting, Kaepernick helped to create the president who has sought to destroy him. That should be a lesson for all of us.
Now that he again has the power to fight back on Election Day, will Kaepernick rise to the challenge the way real heroes do?
That will determine what kind of citizen Kaepernick is. And it will define his character much more than taking a knee.