NYT Hits Rewind on Kaepernick's Anthem Sit-In, Hails Him for 'Finding His Voice,' Tries Stirring More Protest

September 18th, 2016 2:33 PM

It's Week 2 of the NFL season, and the controversy over San Francisco 49er's quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem still simmers among those die-hard sports fans in the liberal news and opinion pages of the New York Times. Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris had a think-piece at the front of the September 18 Times Sunday Magazine, “Stand and Deliver.” Another Times writer fawned over the QB under this headline: "Colin Kaepernick Finds His Voice.”

Morris wrote:

Kaepernick’s sitting was, it emerged, a stance. Two days later, he took reporters’ questions, including one about whether he was concerned that his actions could be taken as an indictment of law enforcement. His answer had teeth. “There is police brutality -- people of color have been targeted by police,” he said. Then: “You can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

(Nice to see Kaepernick joining the conservative fight against overzealous local licensing laws, anyway.)

Morris continued:

That’s one rejoinder to the unconditional gratitude -- the compulsory expression of thankfulness for a nation that prides itself on freedom of expression -- that the [L.A. Rams Coach] Jeff Fishers of the world demand. If you’re a black man, as Kaepernick is, your ambivalence about patriotic rituals may be a way of asking the same question Fisher raised: How lucky are we, exactly?


When a black American protests the demoralizing practices of American government, there is always a white person eager to unfurl the welcome mat to Africa. This is where racism and patriotism tend to point: toward the exits. For some, we learn, being American is conditional on behaving like a grateful guest: You belong here because we tolerate your presence. We don’t yet appear to have settled the matter of citizenship -- not even for our president, another black man backhandedly accused of harboring terrorist sympathies....

Morris was the latest Times writer to give the Watergate treatment an old and settled mini-scandal involving Pentagon-paid patriotic activities at sports events, then linked it to everything he considered wrong with America today.

As a result, modern patriotism has become Kabuki citizenship. It’s Joseph McCarthy; it’s the House Un-American Activities Committee. It’s “Freedom fries” and “These colors don’t run.” It’s American-flag pins and the people who go nuts when a politician is caught without one.

Morris got melodramatic – and raised the laughable idea that BLM is motivated by patriotism.

....New expressions of patriotism always make certain white people fear that a wedge is being driven between them and their America -- whether by Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the Army, or by Black Lives Matter, or by a backup quarterback for the 49ers. The fear is almost as old as the nation. Sometimes it feels as if the fear is the nation.

Times sports writer Michael Powell fawned even harder over Kaepernick in Wednesday’s “Clarity and Resolve, on Bended Knee.” The online headline: “Colin Kaepernick Finds His Voice.”

A postgame professional football locker room is a primal cave. Massive and bruised men dress and move slowly, their bodies lost to ache. I noticed a curiously ebullient man, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, and wandered over to hear what he had to say.

His team had just recorded a dominating 28-0 victory on Monday night over the Los Angeles Rams in a dull, prolonged nap of a game. But he talked instead of listening last week to ESPN as Trent Dilfer, a yakker and retired quarterback, opined that Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers’ backup quarterback, should remain quiet and stop taking a knee during the national anthem as his way of protesting racial injustice and police brutality. Such actions, Dilfer said, threatened to rip the 49ers apart.

Harold shook his head in disbelief. Earlier, during the anthem, he and another teammate, Antoine Bethea, had raised clenched fists in support of Kaepernick. “Dilfer’s comments took me over the edge,” Harold said. “First of all, how do you know?”


I had landed in the Bay Area hours before this game, curious to hear what 49ers fans made of Kaepernick, a once-favored son whose skills may be eroding but whose political voice is finding flower.

Some obligatory and unrelated Trump-bashing:

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, was born to fabulous comfort; as a young prince he oversaw his father’s real estate empire, which was reliably accused of discriminating against black potential tenants. White racist nationalists are among those who have flocked to his campaign banner, and Trump’s campaign has retweeted some of their messages and symbols.

After Kaepernick responded petulantly to Dilfer’s criticism (and accused police of murder) Powell beamed with pride.

That was the sound of a young man who has found his voice.

John Eligon and Scott Cacciola made Tuesday’s front page with the hope that there would be more race-related protests in sports: “Player’s Protest Revives a Spirit of Activism From the Days of Ali.”

Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who touched off a national debate when he chose not to stand during the playing of the national anthem before games, has emboldened a handful of other players to follow suit.

They presumptuously chided NBA legend Michael Jordan for not being sufficiently left-wing activist.

Perhaps no one embodied the spirit of carefully crafting an image more than Michael Jordan, the biggest sports star of his era....But Jordan had a longstanding aversion to taking political stances during his playing career, saying, in one telling, “Republicans buy shoes, too.”

Jordan has denied making that statement, attributed to him in the 1995 book “Second Coming: The Strange Odyssey of Michael Jordan,” by Sam Smith. But even if that quotation is false, Jordan has showed little willingness to engage in controversial politics.

Not all political awakenings are alike for the Times, as shown by their past horrified reaction to Jennifer Capriati supporting the troops during the Iraq War, and to Duke University female athletes showing support for their male colleagues on the lacrosse team during the notorious “rape hoax” of 2006 that the Times' gullible coverage helped encourage.