The Kaepernick Conundrum: Prof. Christopher Parker Weighs in on KCTS 9

Christopher Parker, Art Thiel with Enrique Cerna on KCTS9
Christopher Parker & Art Thiel with Enrique Cerna on KCTS9

On the September 16, 2016, episode of KCTS 9’s Conversations, UW Political Science Professor Christopher Parker discussed “Protest, Patriotism and Polarization” with host Enrique Cerna and sportswriter Art Thiel from SportspressNW.com. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, which he did to protest racism and police brutality, provided the current occasion for the 30-minute segment. KCTS 9’s Cerna asked his guests about their views on the controversy, the effects it has on the NFL and sports more generally, and whether or not Kaepernick’s protest is unpatriotic. In addition, the three addressed how the Seattle Seahawks have responded to the controversy.

Art Thiel noted that Kaepernick’s protest achieved what protest is meant to accomplish, “making the comfortable uncomfortable.” Being asked to address his recent article “Why Colin Kaepernick is like George Washington,” Professor Parker pointed out that “to the extent that patriotism is rooted in sacrifice, [the first president and the quarterback] are not really any different.” After all, “American patriotism is about dissent.” Consequently, Kaepernick’s protest is not unpatriotic. Thiel agreed with Parker noting that the protest is “very patriotic […] because this is one of the things protected in the Constitution.” He also referenced the Twitter hashtag #veteransforkaepernick, which is used by veterans who whether or not they agree with Kaepernick, believe that part of their sacrifice is to protect these kinds of rights. Prof. Parker also noted that there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism: “Patriotism is about love, commitment and sacrifice for the founding values, [while] nationalism is more like ‘our country is better than your country.’”  

At one point during the discussion, Kaepernick’s background—he is bi-racial and was adopted by white middle class parents—was brought up, as some have used it to argue that he should stop his protest. In that context, Professor Parker argued: 

The fact that this guy is wealthy has nothing to do with it. Even though one is middle class or one can be wealthy—once people see you as black or associated with being black you are being treated as such. And it is not always a pretty sight. So he has reason to be upset—I would argue even more reason to be upset because he is wealthy, because he has done everything like many middle class and upper middle class black folks—myself included—we have all played by the rules but still we get treated all the same.

Furthermore, Cerna and his guests discussed Muhammed Ali, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Rosa Parks and how their actions relate to Kaepernick’s. You can listen to the full segment on the KCTS 9 website.