49ers QB Colin Kaepernick sent wrong message by not voting

A generation of young athletes spent the last three months learning the power of protest from Colin Kaepernick, emulating the San Francisco 49ers quarterback as he kneeled during the national anthem, attempting to draw attention to police brutality and black oppression.

Then on Tuesday, those young athletes — and anyone else who has come to believe in the heroism of Colin Kaepernick — learned something else. They learned that it’s not important to vote for the president of the United States, that the election process is overrated.

They learned that the right to vote is not one that needs to be exercised with any consistency, because that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick did on Tuesday, when he declined to take part in the election process of the nation that he insists needs so much repair.

This was Kaepernick on Tuesday afternoon, when asked by reporters in San Francisco if he had voted.

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“No,” came the simple answer.

When asked if he planned to vote, he delivered the same one-word response.

(l. to r.) Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid

(l. to r.) Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Kaepernick certainly had his reasons for not voting, and he was fully within his rights to skip out on what many insist is a “civic duty.” The right not to vote comes with the right to vote, and Kaepernick had been highly critical of both Hillary Clinton and newly minted President-Elect Donald Trump, calling both “proven liars” after a late-September debate. Choosing one or the other is an exercise in finding incremental levels of better for all of us, and it’s an exercise Kaepernick wanted no part of.

But the quarterback who has clamored for so much change still missed an opportunity — if only a small one — to effect change. Yes, Kaepernick has done more than his fair share to help correct the issues in this nation, speaking out and raising awareness to great levels, with a message that at least reverberates a little bit even in the most rural areas of the United States. I’ve spoken with friends who were turned off by his protest early on, but gradually came to respect the quarterback.

KING: Kaepernick’s camp cements his status in the black community

And recently, we saw him take an active role in trying to inspire and empower youngsters, when he held a versatile camp to help minority youngsters learn about health, finances and their rights during the Niners’ bye week.

And it’s only one vote, sure, and it was Kaepernick’s to use on Clinton or Trump or Gary Johnson or no one at all. But what about the many propositions on the ballot in California? Like putting limits on campaign spending? Or background checks on buying ammunition and putting limits on large capacity magazines? And allowing schools to establish non English-only education programs? And parole considerations for nonviolent felons?

But it was a watched vote, less for what it could have accomplished (Clinton won California somewhat comfortably) than for what it meant to the generation of youngsters who have mirrored his activist actions for the last few months. They’ve kneeled during the national anthem because he kneels; they’ve suffered the slings and arrows by upsetting the masses.

In this way, Kaepernick and so many other athletes have made a resounding impact on the national conversation, never letting the racial oppression escape the backs of our minds during sporting events. And Kaepernick’s fans have donned his 49ers jersey to honor their hero, and have changed hairstyles to emulate him.

Time to take Colin Kaepernick’s movement to the next level

Not all will ever have the massive platform to effect change that Kaepernick has. Not all will have his reach. For many who mimic his national anthem protest, their greatest ability to effect change will come during these presidential election Novembers, when they do cast a vote. For many minorities, too, that ability to effect change was hard-earned, something for which they battled, a right that African-Americans marched for as recently as the 1960s.

And it’s a right that Colin Kaepernick declined to exercise on Tuesday, implicitly telling so many young Americans who believe in his message that voting isn’t that important.

He was very wrong.

Tags:
nfl
san francisco 49ers
colin kaepernick
national anthem protest
protests
donald trump
hillary clinton

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