Colin Kaepernick is on his way to becoming the 2016 version of Rosa Parks. That's the analysis of NAACP president Cornell William Brooks. Brooks told USA Today, "It's a lofty name, but it's not a stretch."
Well, my judgment is in, and Kaepernick is no Rosa Parks. Parks did not take a knee aboard a bus after earning millions of dollars to wear a visor and carry a clipboard. She faced down a brutal racist system that used lynching, beatings, dogs and jailing to stop African Americans from being treated like human beings and full citizens.
Contrary to some misinformation, Parks did not take her seat on the bus because she was physically tired but because she was tired of the oppression she faced each day. She clearly knew what she wanted changed. Kaepernick vaguely tells wild tales of police gunning down innocent people and then being rewarded with paid leave. His wearing socks of pigs with police hats on them speaks volumes about his unserious view of police and their challenges.
Parks is also a great role model, who has inspired people to devote themselves to committing their lives to fighting injustice. Kaepernick, sadly, has inspired many high school football players to protest during the playing of the national anthem before their football games.
In our area, the coaches and almost all the football players of the Woodrow Wilson football team in Camden took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in their opening game vs. Highland. On my radio show, I interviewed Wilson head coach Preston Brown, and I experienced the same problems I have with Kaepernick.
Brown and I discussed the reporting of Inquirer writer Phil Anastasia, who says Brown's protest was due in part to seeing the struggles of youngsters in Camden.
"We've got kids in a school system where there aren't enough quality teachers," Brown said. I wonder whether the New Jersey Education Association shares that view. I reminded Brown that, mainly through state taxpayers, Camden spends close to $30,000 per year on each student. He didn't really want to debate that.
Another issue Brown raised around the protest was when he said the students are "hungry and they can't get 'seconds' at lunch. It's so many things that these kids go through."
I reminded him that first lady Michelle Obama's obesity policies around school lunches are being challenged by hungry students across the country.
I think Brown is doing a disservice to impressionable kids. Even though he is well-meaning, his actions are not directed toward a positive goal.
I like much better the stance of Bishop Eustace football coach Rob Cormier. He told the Courier-Post: "Right now, we're in a situation where some people are anti-government, anti-police. I want to see kids exposed to patriotism and not making some statement when they're 15 years old and impressionable."
The coach has it exactly right. What statement are Kaepernick and others making through their attention-getting actions? It seems to be that America is still a deeply oppressive country where cops are allowed to gun down innocent people with little or no consequence. It seems to be that racism is still rampant and systemic.
I think the antidote to Kaepernick and those who tire us by asserting his rights is to challenge him and others to spell out who and what he is opposing and what reform is needed. A major problem is that many in the ESPNs and other major sports media won't challenge athletes for fear of losing access.
So we'll see whether Kaepernick inspires social reform and justice, as Parks did. We'll see whether Kaepernick's actions inspire people of good will, as did the brave actions of Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
For me, I think it's a much safer bet that Kaepernick will throw three touchdown passes in leading Chip Kelly's 49ers to a Super Bowl win.
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com