Hillary Clinton won the presidential debate because Donald Trump is a bad man who is bad at most things. But acknowledging that the two-party system dominates American politics doesn’t mean you have to buy into moral relativism. Colin Kaepernick watched the debate and despaired at both choices.
“To me, it was embarrassing to watch that these are our two candidates,” Kaepernick said Tuesday. “Both are proven liars and it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist. And at this point, talking with one of my friends, it was, you have to pick the lesser of two evils, but in the end, it’s still evil.”
Here is a pretty terrible USA TODAY concern-trolling column, with the headline warning that Kaepernick is “in danger of losing support” for those comments. The writer calls them “needlessly divisive,” says Kaepernick “must heed a voice of reason” and “needs to be more careful of what comes out of his mouth.”
That’s offensive, and it’s downright wrong. First, in assuming that Kaepernick needs or wants “support”—his anthem protests exist to make a point, and to force people to confront ideas and undercurrents they don’t want to confront, and those motives aren’t affected by whether you agree with his opinion of Hillary Clinton. Second, looking at that blockquote above ... I’m not seeing anything untrue there.
Kaepernick’s message has never been politically partisan. Back when the anthem protests first blew up, he noted that while Trump is “openly racist,” it was Clinton who “called black teens or black kids super predators.” He brought up Clinton’s email scandal, and marveled that if “that was any other person, [they’d] be in prison.”
Kaepernick is protesting deep-seated institutional rot, of which the policies of a specific party or candidate are a symptom as much as a cause. Systemic racism is not entirely apolitical, but it’s not something that’s going to be voted away in November. And even given that one candidate is clearly better than the other, Kaepernick himself noted back in August that “a lot of those things are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that [Barack Obama] doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.”
Speaking of Obama, the president addressed Kaepernick’s protests at a town hall-style talk attended by military members and their families, and he struck a conciliatory tone.
“I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that they may cause someone who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat,” Obama said. “But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who has lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”
Because we know Obama reads Deadspin every morning: Colin Kaepernick’s protest has nothing to do with the military.