“Colin Kaepernick’s Football Protests and America” with guest Eric Burin


For a transcript of this episode, click here.

America is in the midst of a ferocious debate about protests on the football field. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality against African Americans, inspiring others to do the same. Some think he is justified, others claim he is just a belligerent employee. On this episode, we look at the philosophical issues behind this debate, and have a discussion that focuses on race, sports, patriotism, the history of the United States, and the nature of democracy itself.

This episode is focused on the new anthology Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent and Patriotism in 21st Century America, which is available for free. To download, click on the name, or here.

Eric Burin is a Professor History at the University of North Dakota who works on American history, with special attention to slavery and race. He is the author of the book Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society. and the editor of the free collection Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College which is available to download for free.

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6 thoughts on ““Colin Kaepernick’s Football Protests and America” with guest Eric Burin

  1. A somewhat disappointing episode; it fell into a trap typical of the crisis of American political discourse: no discussion of Kaepernick’s actual message. If Kaepernick had explained that by kneeling during the playing of national anthem he meant to say that America was in crisis and he was praying for it to become true to its own ideals, I don’t think that many people would have been upset it (as per the completely irrelevant comparison to the player who kneeled in prayful thanksgiving after a good play). From what I have read of Kaepernick’s own words, he seems to subscribe to the pointless Afro-pessimism so thoroughly demolished in the previous interview with Jason D. Hill. Unfortunately, Jack Russel Weinstein seems to have suffered some form of temporary amnesia, keeping him from bringing ideas from one podcast into the next.
    When someone refuses to stand for the national anthem and explains that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he is not simply protesting against racism, he is explicitly disavowing his connection to the country. He is not following in the path of great African-American leaders who insisted that African Americans be allowed their fair share of the American dream, instead, he is dismissing America itself as an essentially racist entity.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It is always difficult to do too much more than refer briefly to other episodes because we can’t assume that our current listeners have heard them. Public philosophy can’t require homework, so to speak.

      Our goal, as is always the case, is to celebrate the guest’s research rather than argue with him or her. That is what (we think, anyway) makes Why? Radio distinct from other philosophy podcasts. We are non-adversarial.

      With this in mind, Jack thought he was doing what you want to a certain extent: asking whether the players were being ungrateful (definitely an outgrowth of Hill’s discussion), asking if they were anti-American, discussing the importance of patriotism, and bringing out the historical context. He specifically called attention to the continuing progress of the civil-rights movement, and asked the guest to respond to Taylor Branch’s notion that college football is akin to the plantation system.

      But, of course, we may not have done it as well as you would have liked, and we hope that you stick with us. We appreciate your comments very much and love, love, love, hearing from, and learning from, our listeners.

  2. Thanks for your reply. Again, you discussed all kinds of things except for Kaepernick’s **own explanation** of his behavior, which, at least for me, is absolutely crucial to how I arrived at my own largely negative view of his behavior. I would go so far as to say that it is actually disrespectful of Kaepernick not to grant his self-understanding a central role in the discussion of his behavior. If Kaepernick’s own words were not discussed in the book to which you contributed, so much the worse for that book. Once we listen to Kaepernick’s own words, his shortcomings become clear, the same shortcommings found in *Between the World and Me* (especially when the latter is compared with *The Fire Next Time”). Of course, I would be happy to hear that Kaepernick described his protest in a more productive light elsewhere than in the material I have read.

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