At the crux of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s belief that police brutality against minorities is a problem that needs to be addressed. Now, the Santa Clara Police Officers Association is threatening to remove its officers from providing security at Levi’s Stadium because of those comments.
Kaepernick’s message against police began well before the firestorm that was stirred up by his decision to sit during the national anthem. He became an outspoken advocate of racial justice on his Instagram as early as last season, and in a training camp practice in August, Kaepernick wore socks depicting pigs in police uniforms.
"If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate workplace behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities," the SCPOA wrote in a letter obtained by NBC Bay Area. "Please contact us as soon as possible with the corrective actions your organization intends on implementing.
"The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association are sworn to protect the rights of ALL people in the United States, a duty we take very seriously. Our members, however, have the right to do their job in an environment free of unjustified and insulting attacks from employees of your organization."
Police unions have made similar statements in the past. When Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt in 2014 demanding justice for Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed by police, the president of the police union in Cleveland called it "pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law" and demanded an apology. The Browns didn’t fold and said the team respects both the police and the players’ right to peacefully protest.
Earlier in the 2014 season, the St. Louis police union demanded a public apology and discipline for a group of players that made a "hands up, don’t shoot" gesture during player introductions.
In both instances, police ultimately didn’t pull officers from Browns and Rams games.
Kaepernick’s message boils down to police being selective about who they choose to serve and protect. Officers threatening to pull their services from 49ers games because of his comments essentially validates them.
Earlier in the week, the 49ers quarterback said he was "most definitely considering" accepting an invite to come visit the San Francisco police academy to open a dialogue. However, he criticized the SFPD for its handling of recent scandal involving racist text messages between officers.
"We have cops in the SFPD that are blatantly racist and those issues need to be addressed," Kaepernick said on Thursday. "I have uncles, I have friends who are cops and I have great respect for them, because they are doing it for the right reason and they genuinely want to protect and help people. That’s not the case with all cops, and the cops that are murdering people, and are racist, are putting other cops in danger, like my family, like my friends."
Kaepernick is attempting to open a national dialogue about racial injustice and has already met with Green Beret Nate Boyer to discuss his protest. However, the message of police is that the 49ers should take "corrective actions" to silence the quarterback.
It’s a message that only perpetuates Kaepernick’s claims that there is a disconnect between minority communities and police, and it’s a message that shuts off communication between the two sides rather than attempts to open a dialogue.