A Culture that Celebrates Fake Heroes While Crucifying Real Ones Cannot Endure

“Believe in something,” Nike told consumers in 2018, “even it means sacrificing everything.”  The advertisement features former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick giving a stoic stare to those social justice warriors being spurred to buy the company’s product. 

In what may be the swiftest example of the Mandela Effect taking hold on the American cultural psyche, many Americans believe that Colin Kaepernick was headlong into a promising NFL future when he boldly decided to take a knee during the National Anthem in order to protest police brutality, and for this crime against the political and social status quo, he was ostracized by the racist NFL and its fans. 

The broad belief in this myth is much more pernicious and destructive, however, than our innocently misremembering that the Monopoly man wears a monocle.

And it is most certainly a myth.  The reality is that on August 26, 2016, Kaepernick decided to sit on the bench during the Anthem, not kneel.  Nothing ostentatious, and there was something almost childish about it, in fact.  Perhaps he didn’t like being benched for Blaine Gabbert, who was, according to Mike Foss at USA Today, possibly “the worst quarterback employed by the NFL” at the time, before he goes on to explain that he might have actually been the second-worst quarterback -- behind only the horrendously bad Kaepernick in 2015.

It wasn’t the first time that he sat during the Anthem, but it was the first time that reporters seem to have been struck by it enough to ask him about it.  When asked why he didn’t stand, he famously said, “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” 

BLM, the MSM, and SJWs rejoiced, of course.  There were many critics, too (myself included), but the NFL didn’t exactly censure or oppress him in any way.  They issued a statement saying that the league “encouraged” but didn’t “require” standing for the Anthem.  The team and coach supported him.  And eventually, he got his shot in the 2016 regular season (and earned about $17 million for his trouble), playing in 11 games.  Unfortunately, the 49ers only won one of those games, and he went into free agency after that terrible season as the league’s most inaccurate passer of the previous two years, with nearly a quarter of his passes statistically categorized as “off-target” passes.

What followed was a series of business decisions, and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves to imagine it’s anything more. 

If Kaepernick were a better quarterback in 2017, he would have likely found a professional home as a 29-year-old free agent.  Of course, if Colin Kaepernick were a better quarterback in 2016, he might not have sat down during the Anthem at all. 

So, NFL teams faced a choice in 2017, which could only be described as a catch-22.  Should they embrace the circus that comes with rostering this guy, thereby opening themselves to accusations by the media who might suggest that his lack of play would be a function of his political stance or his race rather than performance?  Or should they pass on the opportunity to roster a potentially serviceable backup that comes with such risks in tow?

Kaepernick, similarly, faced a business decision.  He could focus on football and potentially be a backup for a few years more, or he could launch a career as a prominent leader in the popular “social justice” movement.

Both opted for the latter choices.  The NFL was accused of racism for not rostering him, and Kaepernick was hailed as a martyr for the cause of social justice.

Here’s the rub.  What Kaepernick “believed in,” which is the myth that police officers are gunning down minorities in the streets and that America is a hateful, racist place that requires socialism to absolve it of its past sins, was culturally popular and fiercely defended by the much of the public and the government, and nearly all of the media and academic institutions, at the time. 

That idea, however incorrect, was not only popular but was clearly gaining steam.  Two years later, Nike inked a deal with him that was sweeter than anything he could have earned in the NFL, and four years later, the NFL hailed him as a hero, too, when Roger Goodell also reached the conclusion that “believing” in the “something” that had made Colin Kaepernick richer could also make the NFL richer. 

As for whether Goodell’s right about that, time will tell, but I still contend that the NFL’s best days are far behind us.

In short, however, Kaepernick had already made millions before deciding to use his waning sports celebrity to launch a career as a political activist, in which he is much more successful than he ever was as a football player.  He risked nothing by taking up the position of the social and political status quo.  In fact, he got much richer by doing so.  And while we might call that a good business decision on his part, it’s certainly not heroism or bravery.

But you know who is a hero?  Washington State police trooper Robert LaMay, who actually defied the government and social status quo, and has sacrificed his livelihood in order to defend the rights to individual health autonomy against the medical tyranny of his state.  After working for 22 years in public service to Washingtonians, working through the pandemic without a vaccine, the government is now demanding that he inject a vaccine into his body, which undoubtedly introduces unknown health risks in order to mitigate health risks that are known to be minimal for the vast majority of people.

You know who else are heroes?  All of the other officers in that state and around the country who are doing the same.  They truly “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

What about the Southwest Airlines employees who took a stand against the unconstitutional vaccine mandates being threatened by the corrupt executive currently occupying the White House, and their employer that had chosen to goosestep in sync?  Heroes.  They believed in something, even if it meant sacrificing everything.  And Southwest has backed down from the threats to fire unvaccinated employees as a result.

And the hospital workers around the nation?  They worked through the unknowns of the deadliest pandemic on this young millennium and were heralded as heroes, but they believe so fervently in the individual right to make health decisions that they are resisting the mandatory injection of a vaccine to offset a risk that they know be infinitesimal for them.  Now, they’re cast as villains, though heroes just months ago, for believing in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

These are true heroes.  And the vast majority of their names we’ll never know.

In a world where we are unable to even declare that such gigantic and world-shaping figures as Christopher Columbus or Thomas Jefferson are heroes (and our world is the greatest it has ever been for its human denizens and has become exponentially more so in these last few hundred years thanks to men like Columbus and Jefferson), we shouldn’t be surprised that the same influences denigrating our heroes are those elevating the voice and visage of Colin Kaepernick. 

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Unless, of course, your belief isn’t aligned with popular opinion, academia, the media, corporate initiatives, or government medical decisions made in your best interest.”

That would be a more honest campaign slogan for Nike and the woke legions of America.  But that doesn’t quite have the same effect, does it?

The truth is that heroes exist all around us. They’re just not on TV or playing games for our amusement, or sitting in the White House or Congress deciding how to spend your unborn great-grandkids’ presumed talent and wealth.

No, they’re ordinary people willing to sacrifice everything because they believe in something: in this case, the timeless principles of liberty, limited government, and individual autonomy.  And while SJWs may find strength in Colin Kaepernick, we find strength in these actual heroes that we see around us. 

When this moment of government-imposed terror subsides, we can only pray that they may be recognized as such.  But to all of these real American heroes, I wish to say: Thank you.  You give us strength every day so that we might be valiant enough to follow.

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