2017-11-09 / Local News

WOULD YOU TAKE A KNEE?

Local residents voice their opinions about about NFL protests
By MATT JOHNSON


Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is shown in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. 
Photo by John Mabon Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is shown in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. Photo by John Mabon With all of the newsworthy events going on around the globe, one story has stayed in the news consistently over the last few months: the National Football League protests.

Turn on a newscast or a news talk show and it’s certain to be talked about every day of the week.

When ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick of Turlock started taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem before each football game last year, probably nobody had any idea just how much attention it would garner.

When initially questioned about his protest, Kaepernick told the media he was protesting police brutality as well as racial oppression in the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick played out the remainder of the NFL season, cut ties with the 49ers and has not been signed by a new team. But dozens of other athletes have since followed his lead, kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem and echoing Kaepernick’s statements.

Those who disagree with Kaepernick have protested in their own way. Fans fed up with the kneeling have decided to boycott the NFL and not support it monetarily.

President Donald Trump has even spoken out against the NFL players who kneel, and has urged team owners to require their players to stand.

A small group of young people in Mariposa County were interviewed for their thoughts on the topic.

Wynter Sturtevant III, 24; Angel Ortiz, 18; Daniel Taylor, 18; and Dillon Donati, 19, spoke to the Gazette to share their thoughts on the subject.

Did he go about it the proper way?

“I think as far as he went about it, it was probably the best way he could have done it, because it got people to talk about it,” Ortiz said of Kaepernick. “It’s the time when the most amount of eyes are on him.”

Donati disagreed, saying, “I believe that an NFL game is broadcasted to be watched as a sporting event, not a political event. I understand he has the stage to bring awareness to something like that, but he also has the stage to bring it in an appropriate manner.”

Donati said Kaepernick and the other protesters could take other avenues instead of taking away from the game, such as speaking out during their press conferences, writing something on their cleats, or doing something to raise money for causes, outside of their time on the football field.

“They’re just doing it in a wrong way, I feel like,” Donati said.

Donati even went one step further, saying he thinks Kaepernick may have been doing it for attention.

“I think Kaepernick was in a slump and did it for attention, and it worked perfectly for him,” Donati said. “I personally think a lot of people who are doing it are doing it to get attention now.”

Taylor sided closely with Donati.

“I’m a really big fan of the First Amendment,” Taylor said. “However, the way he went about it, I believe was a complete disruption. I don’t think he got his message across. Obviously it was a complete disrespect to our country and our flag and the people who fought for it. In my opinion there are much better ways to protest something.”

Disrespectful to veterans?

The group had varying opinions on whether the protest is disrespectful to veterans.

Taylor had the strongest opinion.

“I think it’s very disrespectful to all Americans who care about the flag and where we live,” Taylor said.

Ortiz said at “its very core” the protest was about police brutality.

“It’s not even a protest against police or against any of these figures we’re being led to believe it’s against,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz continued, saying, “You’ll find many veterans saying, ‘This is what we fought for. This is what men and women have died for. This is what we do this for, to give people the right to do it.’ I don’t think it’s disrespectful toward the military or the flag.”

Sturtevant III said he doesn’t see it as disrespectful, but he does “know of veterans who felt it was disrespectful.”

“I think that requires a conversation to take place,” Sturtevant III said. “Instead of sweeping it under the rug, we should actually take the time to hear them out. Communication needs to happen. In my mind, he was not disrespecting veterans, but there is still a group that feels that way. I think they do need to be heard, so that 50 years from now, the protest isn’t tarnished from the idea that instead of talking about police brutality, he was disrespecting veterans, which could very easily turn into the narrative, which we’re seeing now.”

Donati said he didn’t “think it’s directly disrespectful to veterans,” but added a caveat.

“I understand there is no disrespect intended to the military, but you are disrespecting the military when you do that,” Donati said. “Just the fact there are people that take offense, you have to understand you’re making a lot of people upset by doing that.”

What is patriotism?

When asked whether Kaepernick’s actions were patriotic, each had plenty to say.

“This is one of the most American things to do, to protest,” Sturtevant III said. “He’s using his rights to protest. That’s very patriotic, in a way.”

“Protests aren’t about doing what’s acceptable,” Sturtevant III added. “It’s about doing what’s not acceptable (by societal norms) to get your point across.”

With that said, “There are consequences to every protest,” Sturtevant III acknowledged.

Ortiz felt it would come down to “what you classify as patriotism.”

“Patriotism wears two very different faces,” Ortiz said. “It’s almost the ‘like it or leave it’ mentality of America, that it is the best, so you can get out. But on the other aspect of it, to me, patriotism is saying, ‘There is still work to be done.’ And instead of glorifying all the good we’ve done, we’ve got to start tackling the progress we need to start making now.”

Donati said he believed “it’s patriotic in the manner of him expressing his First Amendment and standing up for minorities.”

“I don’t believe he’s doing it in the right way,” Donati reinforced.

Trump tweets

When asked for his thoughts on President Trump getting involved, Donati smiled.

“I think President Trump should have handled the situation more professionally and not taken it into his own hands to post on Twitter about it,” Donati said. “I also don’t think he should be disrespecting the players or owners. I think he should be encouraging them to use their First Amendment right, but also encouraging them to do it more in an appropriate manner. It’s almost making it like a game now, that they’re going to retaliate against his words.”

Taylor said Trump has a lot of “power” with his Twitter account.

“I think most people would agree he took it overboard, but I think it was good he is bringing these issues up and fighting for the common people,” Trump said. “People want to see more things like that. He’s not afraid to go out there and say that this thing is wrong.”

Ortiz said he “didn’t understand” why Trump was “trying to get involved.”

Sturtevant III agreed.

“I would say it’s very interesting that a president from a party that is very interested in promoting that they are for liberty and freedom would then go and tell coaches that this is what they need to do,” Sturtevant III said. “It seems to be counterintuitive.”

Should players be required to stand?

Each seemed to have the same viewpoint on whether players should be asked or required to stand for the National Anthem.

“They’re on the job, but I’ve never worked anywhere where every time you clock in, you have to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” Ortiz said.

Donati said he thinks it should be “an unwritten rule” for players to stand.

“I think it should be common sense,” Donati said. “It’s out of respect. I don’t think, legally, you can make it a rule. I don’t know in legal terms how that would come out. I don’t think it should have to be a rule. I think it should be discussed on general terms and they should reach a conclusion without having to make a rule or a law. ... It’s a touchy issue in the NFL. I think they should all sit down and discuss the issue.”

Is the protest divisive?

The topic of whether the protests have harmed the country more than helped was broached. Sturtevant III had the most to say on the topic.

“I don’t necessarily think division is that bad,” Sturtevant III said. “Division ... actually gets the ball rolling, conversation-wise. If we’re not divided, if we’re being more complacent, then we won’t have a conversation like we have now.”

Will Kaepernick join another team?

Sturtevant III and Ortiz, admittedly, have never been enthusiastic followers of the NFL. With that said, they still had an opinion on whether Kaepernick would ever find a new home in the league.

Ortiz seemed skeptical.

“They’re playing football and they don’t want controversy,” Ortiz said. “That makes sense to me.”

Donati, an avid sports fan, said Kaepernick “should most definitely get another chance.”

“I think there are multiple teams in the NFL that are hurting for a quarterback,” Donati said. “I think he has those abilities to play. I think he was very good at one time. I think he was on a decline when the 49ers let him go. I think he is better than some quarterbacks in the league... Maybe there was more to the story than we know. ... I certainly think there are some NFL quarterbacks right now that their teams would be better with Kaepernick on it.”

Donati did specify he didn’t know whether Kaepernick had been staying in shape or training for another shot.

“I don’t know if he’s able to jump back on the field,” Donati said. “It’s hard to say. But if he plays like he played in his earlier seasons, I think he most definitely has a shot to play again.”

“Taylor said he “really hopes” Kaepernick won’t receive another chance.

“The talent is there,” Taylor said. “He has to have the right offense. The way the 49ers worked was definitely different from other offenses. ... If he’s going to cause teams not to be unified, there is no way a GM will pick him up because of his athletic ability. He’s driving a wedge between players (on their own teams) and players and fans.”

“It’s going to be a franchise that is so bad right now,” Sturtevant III said with a laugh. “I might see the Buccaneers coming.”

Is Kaepernick being blackballed?

There is a faction of the public — and national media — which feels Kaepernick is being “blackballed,” or intentionally shunned, by NFL team owners.

“They’re never going to reveal that to us, but I believe so,” Taylor said of owners blackballing Kaepernick.

Donati soured on that idea, saying owners are “absolutely not” blackballing Kaepernick.

“I think owners care about the dollar figure,” Donati said. “If they believed Kaepernick would do well for their franchise, they would sign him in a heartbeat.”

Ortiz appeared to feel the issue boiled down to the fact that Kaepernick would be a distraction.

“I think ultimately it’s going to come down to, we don’t care about how good you are anymore,” Ortiz said of the owners’ line of thinking. “The fact that we’re even in talks of signing you is giving us a bad name. We’re not going to deal with that.”

Sturtevant III concluded his thoughts by offering support to Kaepernick.

“He might not be on a Wheaties box, but he’ll be on my Wheaties box,” Sturtevant III said.

Matt Johnson is Sports and Education Editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at matt@mariposagazette.com.

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