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.
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.