If I were to meet Colin Kaepernick in a bar, I’d share the same thoughts with him that I’m about to share with you: Having the guts to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it’s unpopular is commendable. I respect Colin for this, but I think he’s gone about it the wrong way. The fact that he thought any NFL owner would take him back is very telling of how out of touch he really is with the reality of his situation and how divisive he is as an activist. Let me share a story with you.
A friend who plays professional hockey in the NHL shared a personal story with me about an old teammate of his. He was one of the best young hockey players in Canada and was, by all accounts, destined to play in the NHL. However, there was just one problem: he didn’t get along with anyone, not with the players nor the coaches. He was naturally gifted, but also extremely arrogant. He wasn’t a team player and he was hard to coach. No NHL scout wanted to vouch for this guy because of his attitude problem. This reputation risk came along with any recommendation. My friend went on to tell me that this extremely talented former teammate of his is now driving a UPS truck in Canada and playing pick up hockey on the weekends.
Colin had an incredible platform and opportunity to be an activist and unite people behind his cause. Instead he chose to divide and continues to do so. This is the sad part, because I believe that in his heart he meant to do the right thing and raise awareness to an important issue in America.
In my experience, anyone who’s been successful in their chosen profession has been a team player; bringing people together not dividing them.
This was a hard lesson for me personally to grasp and is a reason why I identify with Kaepernick on many fronts. Early on when I left the SEAL community, I was a harsh critic of the NRA leadership for their lack of foresight and vision regarding gun control in America. I wrote about it, and got personally trashed by the organization and many of its supporters. It was a quick lesson for me on thinking through something before you take on a controversial issues.
I’ve walked away from it as a better person, and now try and approach these issues with solutions and the mindset of building alliances not dividing. Do I think we need to modernize our thinking and understanding of firearms in America? Yes I do. It’s time for an intelligent conversation about how to make America a safer place, especially for young kids in school. But to just lash out at certain groups is a mistake and only serves to further divide. That’s one of the biggest issues we face in America today.
We are losing our ability to speak candidly and respectfully to each other. We find it easier to light the internet torches and rally the angry mob. This needs to stop. The hard path is to bring both sides of an important issue together and unite them around a common understanding. Only then can we truly make a difference. The greats, like Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk, all knew the importance of creating alliances to affect lasting change.
So I understand why no NFL owner would want Kaepernick back: he would bring controversy, divisiveness, and attention to any team he signed with. He had an opportunity to bring people together on an important issue, but he chose to divide instead. The fans are the backbone of the NFL, and I believe that most see him as insulting America by not standing for the flag. Which is not what I believe Kaepernick intended: He had a noble cause, but just went about it all wrong. And what team owner would want to see an attendance drop or find himself and his team at the center of a bad headline? No one.
My advice to Kaepernick, if we were to share a beer, would be to re-think his approach in the future. To engage the league and the fans in a positive dialog, because it’s a tragedy that one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL doesn’t see that he has a real opportunity to build a bridge where none currently exists. And if the NFL is behind him, then continue his activism but attempt to bring both sides together, and build alliances because the Future is “All of Us”.
Ask yourself this question: How would you want to be remembered?
Authors note: I was inspired to write this piece because of the experience I had speaking out about the NRA, regarding mass shootings at schools, and the blowback and hate mail I received after I went about it in a half-baked way. It was only until I started going at the issue in a smarter and more inclusive way, that I started winning over people on both sides of the debate. Clearly Colin cares about an important issue, which should be important for all Americans — he just went about it without truly thinking through the strategy in its entirety. Do I believe he’s un-American? No. Do I think this is how most fans interpreted his behavior? Yes. It’s in fact very American of him to stand up for something he believes in. However, we all are imperfect. We all make mistakes (I’ve made many). And everyone should have the opportunity to right a wrong. I hope you see the same in what I wrote. Thank you for reading.