If you’re an NFL player who commits violate crimes, including domestic violence, chances are you are going to get a slap on the wrist from the league. And while it isn’t yet clear what is going to become of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick initial reactions from the league’s front office seem to suggest that he may be out of a job soon and perhaps even black balled from joining any other NFL teams.
Mike Freeman of The Bleacher Report claims that after talking to 7 of the NFL’s most prominent executives that there is near unanimity that Kaepernick needs to go. Freeman reports that one executive was barely willing to talk about the matter at all. He simply said “He has no respect for our country. Fuck that guy.” But while sharing your political views on the field seems to come with heavy penalties the NFL is famous for letting its most criminal players off the hook after a suspension or sometimes without any clear punishment at all.
The most famous example being Michael Vick, who served a prison sentence for killing and torturing pit bulls in a brutal dog fighting ring. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles almost immediately after being released from prison. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was punished with a year’s suspension after he whipped his child with a tree branch until he bled. Not only was he welcomed back after his suspension but he’s become something of a hero in more conservative circles, with plenty of fans arguing that America needs more corporal punishment like this to keep kids in line. Side receiver Donte Stallworth was also taken back into the fold immediately after serving jail time for manslaughter after he ran down a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol.
What’s more surprising than the leniency of these punishments is the tenor of the conversation. While domestic abuse, manslaughter and animal cruelty don’t seem to elicit hate from the NFL, having political misgivings about police violence does. Perhaps what really got under the skin of executives was the fact that Kaepernick made trouble for the league intentionally rather than being a simple ‘victim’ of his own demons like countless other NFL players. He was also unapologetic afterwards saying:
This is not something that I am going to run by anybody, I am not looking for approval … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.
Having strong convictions can be dangerous in America’s current over-politicized atmosphere. In a number of interviews after his ‘sit out’ of the anthem Kaepernick maintaned that the whole thing was an attempt to draw attention to police brutality:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.
So if this was a protest then what is a reasonable punishment? Sports have long been a forum in American society to talk about both political and racial issues. To such a degree that it seems ridiculous that we need to ask whether it is acceptable for an NFL player to make a completely nonviolent in a way that didn’t even distract from the game. Especially when the NFL is famous for looking the other way at their players behavior.
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