Antonio Brown has more in common with Donald Trump than with Colin Kaepernick. The comparison between the two former football stars is ludicrous. Unless you’re telling me that they both are decent football players there is no comparison at all.
Antonio Brown, like Donald Trump, is a selfish, self-possessed, misogynistic chauvinist, and is an accused sexual predator, who thinks the world revolves around, indeed belongs to, him. Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, is a selfless man of integrity who will sacrifice greatly for his principles, even if it costs him everything. A better comparison as a human being and football player to Colin Kaepernick is Pat Tillman.
Pat Tillman, because of the circumstances of his death, as a soldier during war time, has become a poster child for the superpatriot. He gave up football to die for his country. How dare Colin Kaepernick kneel before the flag that Pat Tillman died to protect, some have said.
But those are superficial interpretations. It is easy to love, or hate, a man that you do not know, simply because of his overt actions. Antonio Brown, who brought with him locker room conflict, me-first propaganda, and – in the end – misogyny and purported criminal conduct has become better known as his story unfolds. We can, like with Donald Trump, begin to see what is in his heart. But with Colin Kaepernick and Pat Tillman we choose to only know the surface. We read their books by the covers.
Pat Tillman looks great in army fatigues. Well-built, a strong jaw, white. This is what we imagine from our frontliners. They are the responders that keep the dark-skinned enemy at bay.
Pat Tillman joined the army in a time of high intensity, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. Like so many other young men he was caught up in the jingoistic fervor of that moment and he joined the service, it was said, seeking meaning. But those who knew him best knew him to be anti-war, against the policy of invasion in Iraq, and against the presidency of George Bush. In fact, his death by friendly fire has been suggested to have been intentional, and there was a cover-up in the wake of his passing.
Like Pat Tillman, Colin Kaepernick is largely misunderstood. Many of the very same people that see the anti-war and atheistic Tillman as a symbol of god and country also see Kaepernick as a traitor. Again, only the surface image matters. Kaepernick was a black man kneeling while everyone else stood during the national anthem. That was disrespectful, they said, to the flag and to the troops. The opposite was true.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest was never against the flag or against the military – there is not even any evidence that Kaepernick was as anti-war as, say, Pat Tillman – but against police brutality. Specifically he protested against police brutality perpetrated against people of color, incidents of which are widely documented. In the beginning the protest took the form of simply sitting on a bench and ignoring the anthem, but Kaepernick changed that stance to a kneel at the behest of a fellow football player and military veteran, to show respect for those who served. The kneeling, therefore, was a compromise and a show of respect, though it has been interpreted otherwise.
But that is an easy thing to do, to judge another by superficial actions without knowing the story. That’s a human thing to do. Donald Trump was elected to office on a wave of superficiality, and remains popular among a certain segment of the American populace today for the same.
Despite his shortcomings – his bigotry and chauvinism, his misogyny and narcissistic nature – Donald Trump owns better than an 80% approval rating among Republicans. Some because he is white and against those who are brown. Some because he espouses a conservative agenda and stirs hate against those who are liberal. Some because he is rich, and America loves money. But all of these reasons are superficial, because the man himself, it is widely known, has spent his whole life as a cur. That may be the truth about Antonio Brown, too, but we only know his recent history not his entire story.
But despite all of that, I believe that Antonio Brown would get another opportunity in the NFL before Colin Kaepernick. We have seen, in the past, how much an NFL fan can overlook in the personal lives of the players as long as that player can help the team win. The perception, again, is the reality. The perception of Colin Kaepernick is such that those who follow the likes of Donald Trump will tune out the team if they see a Colin Kaepernick upon it. Owners will risk signing a player with a record of drug abuse, of animal abuse, of spousal abuse, or of sexual abuse, but will never risk alienating the superpatriot.
In a very real sense, Colin Kaepernick and Pat Tillman can be considered heroes. They both risked and lost everything for a cause greater than themselves. Kaepernick sacrificed his career in the name of justice and equality. Tillman lost his life serving in a war he did not believe in. Young men who may or may not have been misguided in their quests for personal meaning nonetheless took the leap, and did so in both cases with conviction and integrity.
The opposite of those men is Antonio Brown. The opposite of those men is Donald Trump. Not for conviction or integrity did either become public symbols, but for personal aggrandizement and selfish gain. Whereas Colin Kaepernick and Pat Tillman represent the best of us, Donald Trump and Antonio Brown represent the very worst.
Mistakes can be made. All four men have made them, as have we all. But our mistake, going forward, would be to place Antonio Brown and Colin Kaepernick in any likeness, or Donald Trump and Pat Tillman in the same. Both of the former are men of low character. Both of the latter are men of high integrity and are worthy of our respect.
Antonio Brown has more in common with Donald Trump than with Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick has more in common with Pat Tillman than with Antonio Brown. Remember that, and adjust your lens accordingly.