When it comes to Colin Kaepernick – and when it comes to just about any controversial figure or incident – the vast majority of people tend to choose an extreme. In this case, they either love what Kaepernick did and think he should be praised for taking a stand, or they hate what Kaepernick did and think he should leave the country.
Jason Whitlock’s response, however, is a little more measured, a little more nuanced, a little more enlightened.
“I’m not going to call him a hero. I’m not going to call him a goat, either,” the Speak For Yourself co-host said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He’s a young person who I would suspect has been struggling with his identity throughout his life, and now he is publicly struggling with his identity and struggling with his failure as a franchise quarterback. I think the failure as a quarterback has heightened his struggle with his identity because I think being this successful NFL quarterback masks probably some of the identity issues that he was dealing with. For the most part, I think Colin Kaepernick is quitting football and that’s what this is about. He’s had it with football. For the past year-and-a-half, he’s really struggled. I think this is his way out of football. He doesn’t want to deal with the pressure and burden of being a football player anymore. As his career has fallen apart, he’s become more bitter, and now I think he’s in some ways blaming race and racism for his failure and he’s fallen into this hole of Twitter information, which is very shallow. He has very shallow understanding of the racial issues confronting African-Americans. The easy and the hot thing to do right now is to scream, ‘Hey, police brutality!’ and ‘Unarmed black men are getting killed, and I’m upset about it!’ and ‘Look how black I am!’”
That, Whitlock explained, is not the answer.
“Look, racism is an issue in America,” he said. “It does need to be confronted. The way he’s doing it, though, first of all, he’s on the wrong issue. And secondly, he’s doing this more to shield his own failures and try to carve out this pro-black identity that Twitter tries to bait you into. The kid’s had a tough life, and I say that in terms of his identity. Abandoned by his black father, given up for adoption by his white mother, adopted by a white family – he has struggled with his identity, I would imagine, for a while. And again, we’re seeing it play out on a big public stage right now.”
Whitlock insisted that mass incarceration – and not police brutality – is the main issue plaguing African-Americans.
“The police brutality is a smoke screen to move people away from the mass-incarceration issue,” he said. “I’ve read all these pieces about the government and state-sanctioned murder of black men. That’s all bogus B.S. The government has no interest in police killing unarmed black men or unarmed white men – or anybody – because it costs the government money. You have to settle up most of the time. What the state and what the prison industrial complex has an interest in is escorting people to prison. You can turn a profit off of that. So this guy’s got a thimble full of information (and) doesn’t understand his stature. When you’re a multi-millionaire with a platform as an NFL quarterback, gestures – and that’s all this is is a gesture – is not what you’re called upon to do. He’s not John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Those guys in the 1960s, when they were making gestures, that was all they could do. They weren’t wealthy. They didn’t have the power or the platform that Colin Kaepernick and these modern-day athletes have.
“I keep going back to LeBron James and the work that he’s doing in Akron in his hometown with young African-Americans, the investment in his community,” Whitlock continued. “When you have this kind of wealth and platform, that’s how you should be directing your actions in terms of making change. Let newspaper people, let media people, be outspoken. When you have great wealth, you should use it to influence change. But again, for the most part from what I’ve seen here, Colin Kaepernick wants to quit football, certainly wants out of San Francisco, and he’s come up with this heroic way to end his football career. ‘I’m not going to stand for the national anthem, and I’m against police brutality.’ (That’s) a very simple-minded understanding of what’s really impacting African-Americans.”