Kaepernick v Tebow: A study in contrast

August 27, 2017

Football put both through college. Both were standouts at their respective alma maters. One was twice named his conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player of his school’s 2008 Humanitarian Bowl appearance, the other the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

In 2010 one went in the first round of the NFL Draft, a year later the other went in the second round.

In 2011 the Heisman Trophy winner took over a 1 and 4 season and led the Denver Broncos to the AFC West title. In 2012 the bowl MVP led the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1994.

Yet despite their promising starts, Hall of Fame NFL careers were not in the cards.  The one who did the most in college was out the soonest in 2012 while the other lasted through 2016.

If you haven’t guessed by now, the players in question are Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick and their stories present a modern day contrast in personal character and societal mores.  A contrast lying not in their NFL entrance, both were stand outs, but in their exits.

One accepted that his style of play didn’t fit with the NFL of today and went on with his life.  Tebow is now taking a shot a Major League Baseball playing in the New York Mets farm system.

The other chose to ignore his poor performance on the field and in his last year under contract decided that if he couldn’t be a celebrity on the field, he’d make himself one off the field by refusing to stand for the National Anthem.

When Tim Tebow was playing, there was much discussion of his public display of his Christian faith.  Some wonder to this day if that didn’t play a part in his quick exit from the NFL.

And last season there was the “movement” Kaepernick started when he took to his knee during the playing of the National Anthem.

Yet unlike Tebow, “Kap”, as his fans call him, won’t let go.  Instead he implies that his failure to be picked up as a free agent is not his past two years of poor performance but payback for his behavior.

So fast has this meme spread that last Wednesday several hundred Kaepernick fans gathered outside NFL headquarters to protest his treatment and demand his reinstatement.

Left wing activist and AntiFa supporter Linda Sarsour is now involved and helping to organize the “movement” and Derrick Johnson interim president and CEO of the NAACP wrote to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: “No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech — to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the N.F.L.’s own regulations,”.

Both could not be more wrong.  Yes, Colin Kaepernick and every NFL player since and going forward has every right to not stand during the playing of the National Anthem.  And team owners also have the right to set discipline and behavior standards for their teams.

If the NFL had an ounce of self-respect left it would issue a single statement on behalf of all teams:

“While we respect the first amendment right of every American to protest their government and speak their mind, NFL teams are private organizations that exist for the sport of football.  Any player under contract with an NFL team is fully encouraged to express themselves in any Constitutional manner they so choose – OFF the field.

Players are free, on their time, to go to any baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer game or any other event and kneel during the playing of our National Anthem.  But on our fields, in our stadiums, you will stand or you will be benched.”

Of course the NFL will never issue a statement like that.  Roger Goodell’s alter name is “Spine of Fish made of Jelly”.

But oh what a study in contrast we have; A study not about race, religion, sex, gender or any other identity politics meme of the day but a study of character.

Tim Tebow, a man living his dream with no end in sight only to see it all come crashing down.  Yet no rallies, no demands, just thankful to have had the chance and moving on.

Colin Kaepernick a man of the same age, the same dream, the same crash, yet blames others and demands “justice”.

One is a lesson in the content of character, the other a caricature leading a cast of characters.

A version of this column first appeared in the August 27, 2017 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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