It’s hard for me to root for someone going out of business.
That’s what happened to Stephen Martin, an athletic goods store owner in Colorado Springs, who was forced to close after he stopped carrying Nike products. Martin made this decision after Nike came out with an advertisement in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who has been out of the league for years after protesting police violence on the sidelines of games during the national anthem.
For supporters of Colin Kaepernick, the store’s closing brought about a fantastic feeling of schadenfreude. I’ll admit I was guilty of that feeling. Here was a man who had put all his chips in the center of the table over a blind, foolish belief in some sort of capital-P Patriotism which doesn’t allow for dissent, and he paid the price for it.
But what really cost him his business was that Martin believed that we are in some larger culture war that, while it gets a lot of play on cable news and is talked about in serious tones in newspapers’ opinion columns, isn’t as stark or immediate as it feels, or as any of these people want you to believe.
We saw this bear out in the last year with the NFL ratings. There was a pretty major argument that players’ protests against police violence would result in massive ratings dips as people tuned out, no longer content to support athletes who didn’t “respect the national anthem.”
President Donald Trump, always on the lookout for a cultural divide he can stoke or capitalize off of, jumped in, making the whole thing feel like a crisis, something that was threatening the very future of football. It felt real. It felt like Something Big Was Happening.
Then, nothing much happened. The owners and players worked out a half deal, some kept protesting. Scoring went up this season and ratings followed. Turns out people like touchdowns more than anything else.
Martin fell victim to the idea that Colin Kaepernick was a flashpoint in American culture and that he needed to put his business’ future on the line to pick a side about it.
He was silly to do this. People have opinions about Colin Kaepernick, and can disagree on them. But despite how the president wants you to think, and despite how talking heads may shout about it, very few people are altering the way they live their lives based on what he did or continues to do.
Most people just want to wear their team’s favorite jersey, whoever makes it. They like being together on Sunday and watching football, and while they may give Kaepernick a passing thought, or even get into an argument with a family member over it, it doesn’t appear to be affecting anyone’s overall behavior when it comes to football.
Is this right? I’m not sure. Depending on what side you’re on, you probably wish more people were fervent in their support of that side. I know people who support Kaepernick wish desperately …read more