E-letter: Running amok


American football player Colin Kaepernick’s antics, refusing to stand during the national anthem, have the media all-abuzz. Self-styled experts on the U.S. Bill of Rights are doing cameos on all the news, sports and entertainment channels. I assume this confuses most of us, so let’s take a look at what it means, and why it’s important for Canadian business.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

First, America’s First Amendment guarantees the freedom of expression, religion and association. In Canada, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms does the same. People are free to believe, associate, speak and write as they choose. Recently, the legal establishment has discovered a bunch of limitations on those rights, but that’s another column for another day.

However, what the self-styled pundits are missing in their support of, or objection to, Kaepernick, is that the freedom of expression attaches to the person and does not extend to that person’s employer.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you own a hog farm and you need help. Help is hard to find for hog farmers. We only think we have it bad. Also, let’s say there is an animal radical group looking to debase hog farmers, so they send an activist over, under cover, to apply for a job.

Does that person, once hired on false pretences, then have the “right” to stage fright sights, make made-up movie scenes and distribute them to the mother ship? They do it.

Similarly, let’s assume a trade magazine for power plants hires a “journalist” that is against coal. Does that person then have the “right” to advocate against coal as a fuel? I will guarantee you, the advocate/activist thinks he or she does.


However, in journalism, as in football, the owner is the beneficiary of the right. He or she can assign it down the line, but the intent was that people with divergent ideas could start their own companies and follow their own beliefs. This is why 17th Century poet and philosopher John Milton argued so strongly for the right to free religious expression, and why the American revolutionaries argued for the right to freely express their own beliefs.

As the story goes, the Revolutionaries were willing to die for the right to speak opposite King George III, and they did not believe in giving him ink in their publications. They felt he had his own media and voice. In fact, had they discovered a Georgist in their print room, he would have been tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail.

Freedom of expression attaches to freedom of assembly, which has been hijacked by some Guy Fawkers under the guise of Occupy *.* and Whatever Matters. These folks have pulled in the words of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, and insist they are practicing civil disobedience. They are not.

Anybody that can read and understand English can read Civil Disobedience. It is short. It is based on a lecture series Thoreau gave entitled The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government. To Thoreau, that “duties” part was critical. To today’s malcontents, not so much.


According to Thoreau, the DUTY of a citizen with a moral conviction to share was to refuse to comply with the offending rule or law, for sure, but then to demand and take the consequences. That is, Thoreau refused to pay a tax and demanded to be jailed, but to the confusion and consternation of the authorities. To my thinking, the car-burners and Nike swipers should be recognized for what they are demanding, and they should be accommodated. Thoreau would not have seen Nike swiping as “civil,” but criminal, and an affront to free-thinking people everywhere.

Mahatma Gandhi famously led a civil-disobedience revolution against the British, and did it with “passive resistance,” that is, unarmed. This has been held up as a milestone in social disruption, and so it was, but it is important that being unarmed was not Gandhi’s preferred method of revolt. Quite the contrary, Gandhi said:

“Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly, and the presence of an alien army of occupation, employed with deadly effect to crush in us the spirit of resistance, has made us think that we cannot look after ourselves or put up a defense against foreign aggression, or even defend our homes and families from attacks of thieves, robbers, and miscreants.”

Miscreants. I love that word. Even the poor in India in 1930 were not immune from local miscreants running amok.


So I am not impressed with Colin Kaepernick’s exercise of my time, his employer’s time, the media’s time and football fans’ time so he can grab the pulpit and make half-baked pronouncements on his politics. If he was selling shoes at an NFL game, he would pay $665,375 for a 30-second spot. That the team owner and the NFL commissioner allow it only makes me question their management. They certainly seem able to step in with cockeyed opinions on other issues.

As far as I’m concerned, if Colin Kaepernick wants to make a football statement about politics, he should start his own team, attract his own fans, pay his own bills, hire his own lawyers and defend his own positions. As it stands, he is just another miscreant and thief in sportsman’s clothing. Either he’s that, or a useful idiot advancing somebody else’s agenda.


  • Sorry Kerry,
    I think the only person running “Amok” here is you! Lumping Colin K’s protest in with the Occupy Movement, and (I think) rioters/thieves (ie. people engaging in actual criminal behavior), as though they are all of the same level, and then cherry-picking a few select theories/philosophies from history removed from context (I believe Ghandi had a lot more to say on the topic of non-violent protest than what you’ve chosen here) to support your meandering point, is specious at best, and shameful at worst. Really, a “thief” and an “idiot”? The only “rule” he has broken is a social norm (ie. standing for the National Anthem). Not a law. There are reams of documents proving how the NFL has abused and endangered it’s players (CTE anyone?), so tell me again who the miscreant is? You are aware that players are contractually obliged to speak to the media? So answering questions and clarifying his stance is him hijacking…what? The NFL’s employees are not the same as most employees. They are the product, as much as the game is. The NFL machine is corrupt and exploitative, and I think using some of that false very narrative they pretend to purport (ie. Patriotism= Football) is a protest that Ghandi and the American forefathers would applaud. Then again, maybe both of us should stay away from dragging dead people into a debate they don’t belong in. Next time, how about focus a bit more on what you said you were going to do at the start…namely, how this issue is important to Canadian Business? You seemed to get sidetracked by a little self-aggrandizing of your own. Well, I guess it is your paper!

    • Hi, Rob,

      From the bottom, I try never to think of Wood Industry as “my paper.” It is for people in the industry to weigh in and see if they can influence their situations. And I always publish responses, positive or negative.

      Gandhi said what he said. Importantly, Saul Alinsky, the noted anti-social radical cited with riots, looting and killing, used that very quote of Gandhi’s to justify and promote his own ideas of rising to power. You can read about it in Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

      My concern about “protest” during the National Anthem was not so much that it broke a social norm or broke a law, but that people pay to watch football and people hire football players. I am all for protest. In my opinion, this was and is simply calling attention to himself on my, your and the NFL’s nickel.

      More importantly, though, we try very hard at Wood Industry to provide original content, a place to air the readers’ concerns and a journal of what’s happening in manufacturing, economics and industry. In many cases, that means politics.

      If you look at the run-of-the-mill, corporate-driven trade magazines, the only view expressed is the suppliers’, and the only editorials you see are either “what I did on the weekend” or “look at the great story we did on page 18.”

      We try hard not to “get sidetracked by a little self-aggrandizing of [our] own,” and appreciate it when we get responses to guide, educate or correct. Communication is a two-way street, and we are very aware that our view is not the only one, and we welcome and encourage the views of others. This, too, is quite unlike the run-of-the-mill media, and it seems to work.


  • Kerry,
    I may be retired but I still enjoy reading your column. This one has struck the proverbial nail dead on! I wish I could have said it as well. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Ed,

      I hope retirement is to your liking. The more I hear about it, the more it seems exhausting.

      Contemporary wisdom has it that all things that are, are new, and that “old” ideas such as virtues and duties have no place in contemporary society. However, history is at odds with contemporary wisdom. History teaches us that duties and values are part of a pendulum that, once having gone too far one way, will inevitably swing back equally far the other. History also teaches that the return swing can be messy. I guess we’ll see, but I am not one to follow pop culture, social media or sports brats where they are headed.

      Thanks, again, and stay in touch.


  • Thanks, I always enjoy reading your column. You generally educate me on most topics and I really enjoyed this one. I now realize many years later that this is the exact reason why working as a shop steward in the health region I was not allowed to make any comments to the media but to refer them to a particular person, who I now realize was “out of scope”. This way as an employee I was not making personal comments about my employer. It is never to late to learn! lol

    I would really like to share your letter/link on my personal facebook page if I have your permission. I am sure I am not the only one around who need to re-think how we view our own actions and how it may affect others.

    Thanks and keep up the fantastic writing!

    Liza Clark