When Colin Kapaernick refused to stand for the National Anthem, he fumbled. A popular athlete, he is in a position to lead a discussion about the injustices to people of color and specifically, police brutality. But, he fumbled. Kapaernick had refused to stand for the national anthem during the first two weeks of the preseason, but apparently nobody noticed, or if they did, they were not talking about it. He, apparently, had not talked about it, either. When, after the third time, he finally was asked why , he responded,“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Soon he was accused of dishonoring America’s veterans and service personal, to which he responded by showing the socks he had been wearing. It seems that they have pigs dressed as policemen on them. He explained that he wore them to object to the incidents of police brutality against minorities, and that he did not want to offend veterans, using the socks to prove it. But, understandably, many police officers were now offended. So he decided he would kneel during the anthem, a gesture to appease and show respect to the service personnel of the nation.
Kapaernick wants to get a discussion started, and he did get conversations started, but many of them have not been about the social injustices to which he wished to draw attention. Some people are asking what his motivation is, others are sure he is wrong to not stand.Still others want to know if he really is objecting to a nation that allows him to make millions of dollars playing a game? “What have you done to solve the problem?” had been a question, so he decided to donate one million dollars to groups involved with the correction of social injustices. A little too little, a little too late became another discussion. At a minimum, the auxiliary conversations take time away from the conversation that he wanted to start. I am just not sure what the conversation is, and that is the problem.
To be fair, people have supported Kaepernick, but that support is growing at a snail’s pace. Many people just have not felt a need to support him, let alone join the conversation about the mistreatment of select groups of Americans. That may be because Kapaernick has fallen prey to a problem that haunts leaders in a variety of situations. When he started this, he lacked focus.
Does he object to the nation, the nation’s treatment of people of color, police brutality, all of these, or something else? Are there other social issues of concern to him, and if so, what are they? He may have been more focused if he had clearly articulated what he was trying to do. Then he would have known, and the world would have known. More importantly, had he communicated his intentions before he refused to stand, others would have been less likely to misinterpret his actions and put their own twist on it. Finally, his actions were not focused on a solution, just a discussion. Not a bad start I guess, but not a very definitive focused action designed to correct the problem. He has clearly been reactive, changing his actions as objections and suggestions came in.
I would be a lot more comfortable with what Kapaernick is trying to do if he had just said up front what it is, if he had told us specifically what conversation he thinks we need to have as a nation. He could have insisted that this conversation must lead to a solution, and until the discussion is started in earnest, he will remind the nation of the need to address the situation by sitting during the national anthem. I realize that he chose to speak out and that he did not have to risk the negative impact of his actions, and I believe that he is well intended. But the road to failure is paved with good intentions. Success takes a bit more. If you want to lead, you need to focus on the problem, communicate, and take focused action toward a solution.Maybe Colin Kaepernick will recover his fumble. But it might be a fumble lost because of failed communication, a lack of focus, and undefined action.