Lane said he mulled all week over Kaepernick’s words about injustice toward people of color and decided to support him. Kaepernick’s protest is getting people to think, and talk, and act, rather than merely rant and pontificate and accuse (though there’s still plenty of that).
It feels like the Colin Kaepernick saga is advancing, or at least inching, beyond the knee-jerk, polarizing, he’s-an-idiot/no-he’s-not, you’re-an-idiot rhetoric that has marked not just this story, but so much of our political discourse these days.
And that’s a good thing. And in a way, vindication of Kaepernick’s intent in the first place.
He’s getting people to think, and talk, and act, rather than merely rant and pontificate and accuse (though there’s still plenty of that). And now the story has hit home with the Seahawks, as defensive back Jeremy Lane followed Kaepernick’s lead in sitting for the national anthem before Seattle’s exhibition game in Oakland on Thursday night.
Actually, Lane is a step behind Kaepernick, who decided to kneel on one knee rather than sit during the anthem before San Francisco’s game in San Diego, also Thursday night.
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“That came up as more respectful to the country, to the anthem, to the military,” 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick’s protest, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “And I agree with that. It shows that (Kaepernick) hears that people were hurt by him sitting.”
Reid told reporters he decided to join with Kaepernick after a series of conversations with his teammate during the week. And Lane said something similar: That all week he mulled over Kaepernick’s words about injustice toward people of color and decided to support him.
“I just liked what he’s doing, and I like standing behind him,” Lane told reporters.
If ever there was a team that would support Lane’s right to do so, it would seem to be the Seahawks, where individuality and free expression are celebrated and encouraged, emanating from coach Pete Carroll on down.
Yet it is always within the team context, so it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be from Carroll and teammates if Lane’s stance proves to be as much of a distraction and cause célèbre as Kaepernick’s.
Tellingly, while talking to reporters after the game, Carroll called it “totally an individual decision” on Lane’s part and added, “It’s really important for us to understand and be smart about what we’re doing and how we handle our business.”
Whether or not that means a heart-to-heart talk with Lane about the proper way to express one’s feelings, I don’t know. It also could be a tricky situation for Seahawks fans who might be offended by Lane’s anthem stance and yet want to stand unconditionally behind their players.
Kaepernick has proved to be an articulate, passionate and well-informed advocate for his cause. And one who, importantly, is willing to evolve his message. I thought it was impressive that he invited Nate Boyer, the former Green Beret who went to camp with the Seahawks last year as a long snapper, to come to Santa Clara, Calif., after Boyer had penned a compassionate and thoughtful open letter to Kaepernick on the anthem issue.
As explained by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Boyer influenced Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit during the anthem. Kaepernick also stood and applauded during a lengthy salute to servicemen and women on the video board, while “God Bless the USA” played.
“I had a long conversation with Nate Boyer about how we can get the message back on track and not taking away from the military … a way to show more respect for the men and women who fight for this country,” Kaepernick told Kawakami.
And that’s how Kaepernick’s initial gesture will reap progress — by focusing attention on the very real issue of racial injustice without the ancillary accusations of him being anti-American or anti-military. Already, former Seahawk Russell Okung has penned a thought-provoking essay in The Players Tribune, and the topic is being bandied in locker rooms across the NFL — not to mention workplaces and households.
By their own account, Kaepernick and Boyer had a good, frank discussion of the complicated issues that have been brought to the forefront. And then Boyer stood beside him during the anthem in San Diego, after which they embraced.
To me, that was the most powerful symbol yet of how differences of opinion can be bridged through an attempt for mutual understanding rather than vilification. We would all do well to ponder the final words of Boyer, someone who has done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, in his Army Times article:
“Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it. When I told my mom about this article, she cautioned me that ‘the last thing our country needed right now was more hate.’ As usual, she’s right.”
Here’s what Boyer tweeted to Kaepernick on Thursday: “Thanks for the invite brother… Good talk. Let’s just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about.”
In America, people have the right to protest peacefully, as Kaepernick and now Lane have done. And yes, people have an equal right to object to that expression. But let’s hope that we can finally get past the hue and cry over the execution of those complaints, and delve into the substance.