Believe in Something


Believe in something, even if it’s only your victim status.

Genuine sacrifice is the stuff of legend and is therefore reassuringly rare. For the biblical among us, there are the towering figures of Abraham or Christ himself to live up to. For historians, there are titans such as Martin Luther King or Emmeline Pankhurst. If it’s sport you want, you could do much worse than ‘the greatest’, Muhammad Ali.

Refusing the draft in 1967, Ali was heavily fined, stripped of his boxing licence, his passport and the world title, and faced a jail sentence because of his principled opposition to the Vietnam War:

My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America…and shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.’

In the modern world however, the standard of martyrdom is not quite what is used to be. The closest most of us get to a sacrifice these days is surviving the perilous 100 metre dash between rival Starbucks outlets, without the obligatory cup of vanilla-bullshit coffee clutched like a life-support machine. Colin Kaepernick’s ‘sacrifice’ is poor, piss-poor even by Starbucks’ standards.


Our genuflecting hero has however managed to get a protest on his résumé, the ‘Take a Knee’ controversy which he began in 2016. Here he explains his motivation for kneeling during the National Anthem:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour…To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’

The problem for Kaepernick is that his rather tired narrative of police brutality and black oppression is either flagrantly disingenuous, or otherwise indicates scant knowledge of the facts. One reason groups such as Black Lives Matter are able to continually get away with misleading claims, is that no one wants to violate the equality lie and state the obvious: blacks commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime, and are therefore heavily-represented in any relevant statistics.

Skin colour should be irrelevant but if Kaepernick wants to make a point out of it…

According to the Department of Justice, while blacks make up just 15 percent of the US population, they account for 62% of robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults. Any reasonable analysis of the data on police shootings which takes this disproportionality into account, entirely contradicts the police brutality narrative.

For instance, a 2015 study of the Philadelphia Police Department revealed that black and Hispanic officers were more likely to shoot unarmed blacks than their white colleagues1. A 2016 New York Police Department study meanwhile, found that black officers were 3.3 times more likely to shoot than white officers2. In addition, a 2016 empirical analysis of racial differences in police use of force found that police officers in Houston were 24% less likely to shoot blacks than whites3. The police in fact often demonstrate ‘reverse racism’ to blacks, which is no wonder when you consider the impending backlash they will knowingly receive.

According to the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings, 12% of white and Hispanic homicide victims died at the hands of police in 2015 – the comparable black victim rate was just 4%. Far from police brutality, it’s actually police officers who should worry, being as they are almost 19 times more likely to be killed by a black assailant than the other way around.

So the protest is nonsense. It’s also racist.

What about the sacrifice? All things considered, it appears that Kaepernick’s fit of pique has cost him precious little either financially or career-wise. In terms of endorsements, he has had a longstanding deal with Nike since 2011. On the field meanwhile, he has continued to receive employment offers from several NFL teams post ‘kneegate’. The Denver Broncos offered him a contract in 2017 for instance – Kaepernick turned them down.

Kaepernick’s woes appear to stem largely from the fact that, protesting aside, he just isn’t particularly good on the field. Despite a great season in 2014, Kaepernick has consistently been one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league. In terms of pass completion he has consistently performed poorly, ranking 32nd out of 35 in the 2016 season. More Joe Bugner than Muhammad Ali.

Where he performs better, is weaving his inactivity into a marketable commodity; it is here where perhaps he has found his calling. Making political capital out of nebulous virtue is nothing new, everyone’s at it: the radical Islamic preachers; the millionaire ‘socialist’ politicians; the refugee-loving celebrities who are all for open borders, as long as they don’t impinge on their gated communities. The real question is, what exactly is Nike getting for their money?               

For a company obsessed with image (and let’s face it, how many billion-dollar multinationals aren’t?), Kaepernick is at first glance a mercurial choice. If clothes maketh the man (an argument you’d have thought Nike would subscribe to), then Kaepernick is not much of a role model. The Che-Guevara T-shirt toting, cop-hating sock aficionado does not exactly leap to mind when considering the notions of ‘sacrifice’ or humility. It would be hard to imagine him quitting football to serve in the military and even making the ultimate sacrifice for his country, like Pat Tilman famously did. For the record, Tilman did not have a Nike deal.

In terms of PR meanwhile, Nike prides itself on its progressivism. The company’s watchwords are ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, by which perhaps they mean the diversity of the Asian sweatshops they use to make their wares, or their inclusion in the Paradise Papers scandal for tax evasion?

Whatever their ethics, Nike is a cold, calculating business machine, and it clearly sees politics as another viable revenue source. They know exactly what they’re buying with Kaepernick – they’re buying his victim status.

They are not stupid to do so. In these days of hideous identity politics, your victim status is often the only thing that matters, specifically, how far away you can get from the dreaded combination of white masculinity. Kaepernick achieves this effortlessly, much like Obama did –  he is black when it counts. Like Obama, he manages to divide the country extremely effectively. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, 54% of Americans consider it ‘inappropriate’ to kneel during the National Anthem, with 43% deeming it ‘appropriate’. That 43% is what Nike is banking on.

Indeed, they are not the only ones to have noticed Kaepernick’s marketability as a professional sulker. The hurt feelings industry has recently fallen over itself to fawn over victimhood’s latest poster boy. GQ named him 2017 ‘citizen of the year’. He received the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, established to ‘honour a figure who embodies the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy, and has used sports as a platform for changing the world.’ He recently won Amnesty International’s highest honour, the ‘Ambassador of  Conscience Award’, while narrowly missing out on Time Magazine’s 2017 ‘Person of the Year’.

The market for victimhood appears thus far to be fathomless, and companies such as Nike are still plumbing its depths – which is precisely what this campaign is all about. Exactly how much can you make out of virtue signalling?

Victimhood worthy of the Nike dollar equates to a fortune. Feminist icon (and occasional tennis player) Serena Williams recently signed a 5-year contract worth $55 million. Meanwhile, Lebron ‘I need a day without white people’ James’ lifetime deal with the company is rumoured to be in excess of $1 billion. Whatever Nike is paying him, Kaepernick is unlikely to be straightening his knee anytime soon.

Nike used to sponsor the greatest of all time, Roger Federer, but those days have run their course. Kaepernick is far from great, but Federer bless him couldn’t tick the diversity box if his life depended on it.

In terms of sacrifice, Kaepernick doesn’t have a leg to stand on. In terms of shoe sales however, it looks like he’s just cornered the market.

Frank Haviland was born in London, and educated at Dulwich College. After a brief spell in the City, he obtained an MSc in Social and Applied Psychology. He has been many things including a professional juggler, businessman, and English lecturer. Haviland is concerned that Britain (and the West generally) have fallen to the lie of equality (the false notion that everything is, and must be seen to be of equal value). He has recently finished his first book (outlining his theory), which is due for publication later this year. Frank has lived in South Korea since 2011 where he runs a small English school, and writes occasional articles about the damage of political correctness. A selection of his work can be found Haviland

An assessment of deadly force in the Philadelphia police department
G Fachner, S Carter, Collaborative Reform Initiative – Collaborative Reform Initiative. Washington, DC: Office …, 2015
Greg Ridgeway (2016) Officer Risk Factors Associated with Police Shootings: A Matched Case–Control Study, Statistics and Public Policy, 3:1, 1-6, DOI: 10.1080/2330443X.2015.1129918
Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2016.”An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” NBER Working Papers 22399, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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