Even though the season doesn’t start for another two weeks, the National Football League is already embroiled in controversy.
The latest lightning rod for sports radio hot takes is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who surprised pretty much everyone last week when he refused to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
When asked why he did what he did, Kaepernick said he was trying to raise awareness about the fact that this country isn’t living up to the motto of “liberty and justice for all.”
He also said that he would continue to sit through the national anthem “until there’s significant change,” and the “flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.”
Not surprisingly, Kaepernick’s protest has sparked a firestorm of outrage, quite literally so in the case of one 49ers fan, who burned the quarterback’s jersey and then put a video of it on Facebook.
Conservative pundits in the media haven’t gone quite so far as that one 49ers fan — no one on “Fox So-Called News” has burned a jersey live on air, not yet at least — but they’ve been just as fierce in their criticism of the San Francisco quarterback.
According to these conservatives, Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem is deeply unpatriotic because it’s disrespectful to the military and the police who’ve given their lives to keep us safe.
Former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson gave a version of this argument during an appearance on Fox this weekend.
This is the standard conservative argument that comes up every time someone “disrespects” the flag or “insults” the military, and it’s just as wrong as now as it was the hundreds of other times someone used it to condemn a legitimate protest.
Right-wingers would never admit it, but using our constitutional protest right to take a stand for something you believe in is as patriotic as it gets.
You’d think conservatives would understand this, given how they’re always going on about the US Constitution and “personal liberty,” but apparently they only mean that for white people.
Unnoticed in most of the media is the ultimate irony of all this: Levi’s, the clothing company that bought naming rights for the 49ers’ stadium, is way more unpatriotic than Kaepernick will ever be.
Even though it likes to portray itself as a salt-of-the-Earth, American company, Levis’s, like most of corporate America, has taken advantage of the so-called free trade era to send most of its manufacturing jobs overseas.
Only one line of Levi’s jeans, the 501 classics, is now made here in the US.
Meanwhile, the company’s finance, customer relations and IT departments are now also all handled abroad, mostly in India.
The outsourcing of Levi’s financial department alone cost 500 jobs.
And, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, Levi Strauss is sitting on more than $100 million overseas to avoid paying US income taxes on the money. Very patriotic!
In other words, while Kaepernick risks his career (and possibly his life) to take a stand for people who live and work here in the US, and Levi’s exploits its reputation to participate in and contribute to the death of the middle class while enriching its executives and shareholders.
But you won’t hear anything about that from Republicans.
They’ve been on Levi’s side all along.
They’ve supported so-called free trade deal after so-called free trade deal, all while talking tough about God, country and the flag.
For conservatives, patriotism is just a slogan, and their crocodile tears about Kaepernick prove it.