Anthem protest deserves backlash

It’s the Fourth of July, and that can mean three things are certain to be talked about on national talk shows and in print and on social media today:

  • NBA free agency
  • Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
  • Colin Kaepernick

While pro basketball teams will overpay for a bench player they think can become the missing piece to a championship puzzle and Joey Chestnut will stuff 60-some hot dogs into his mouth, Kaepernick will continue to wait by the phone as NFL teams ignore him.

As well they should.

Playing professional sports is a privilege, not a right, and Kaepernick abused that privilege when he refused to stand for the national anthem before San Francisco 49ers games last year for what he perceived were social injustices. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers.

Now, Kaepernick is expecting in the neighborhood of $10 million to play quarterback for another NFL team. This, from a guy who went 1-10 as a starter last year.

I’ve heard sportscasters and sportswriters say people shouldn’t be punished for one mistake. But this wasn’t one mistake. He kneeled for the anthem all season, and to the best of my knowledge, has never apologized.

I’ve heard other sportscasters and sportswriters say people have a right to make a living. That’s correct. They do. But it doesn’t have to be in the NFL. Let him sell insurance or something. I’m sure he could put his University of Nevada education to good use outside of football.

Now, before I go any farther, let me say what Kaepernick has done pales in comparison to what some other NFL players have done. Former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Greg Hardy threw his girlfriend against a wall and onto a bed full of assault rifles. The Cincinnati Bengals just drafted Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was caught on video knocking out a woman a few years ago.

Those guys have no business in the NFL, either. Unfortunately, when some teams see what they can do on the field, they overlook the off-the-field discretions.

But Kaepernick might be kept on the sidelines because of fan backlash. What he did might fly in San Francisco, but it may not in other NFL cities.

Fortunately, we didn’t see anyone at local high school football games follow Kaepernick’s lead last year. The only game I saw where someone did that came when Brebeuf Jesuit girls soccer goalkeeper Lauren Turner took a knee during the national anthem prior to the Braves’ Evansville Central Semistate game against Columbus North. Turner had been making a practice of that all season.

Certainly, it’s well within an athlete’s right to free speech to take a stand — or in this case, a kneel. But it’s also with an organization’s right not to have that stand taken at their expense.

I know a few veterans who on this Fourth of July holiday would agree.

Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.