The internet (including the liberty movement) has exploded with support, backlash, and the dankest of memes over the announcement of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick being the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary of their famous “Just Do It” slogan. The ad features a black and white portrait with “Believe in something. Even if it means losing everything. Just do it.” superimposed upon Kaepernick’s face, a reference to the athlete’s inability to be signed by any National Football League (NFL) team since he first kneeled for the national anthem in protest.
As was expected, the decision by the athletic shoe titan caused a stir amongst those vocally opposed to NFL players protesting during the national anthem including President Donald Trump who expressed to the Daily Caller that “I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it,” though the President did admit that it was Nike’s decision to make, even if he disagreed with it.
Contradicting the spirit of their recent vote to require players to stand on the field during the anthem, the NFL demonstrated support for Kaepernick’s endorsement stating, “The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding, and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
The tension between social justice warrior culture and anti-political correctness culture makes any mention of the once University of Nevada superstar an instant debate, and libertarians have been no exception to this conflict. Despite one’s opinion on whether or not Kaepernick’s protests were disrespectful toward the troops (even though that wasn’t the point of the kneeling) or whether the narrative he supports is incorrect, it’s baffling to see how many libertarians seem passive to the influence of government in trying to silence protestors with which they disagree.
President Trump previously called for the firing of athletes who kneeled during the Star-Spangled Banner and told his supporters to leave stadiums if they see protesting athletes in a 2017 speech. That the holder of the nation’s highest office is encouraging his base to punish an industry for something he sees as “terrible” and pressuring business owners into banning an action by their employees, is a gross overstep of power.
And why should Colin Kaepernick’s plight be any different than others that libertarians support for being silenced? Part of 71republic’s senior contributor, Spencer Kellogg’s, speech for Matt Geiger’s surprise vice chairman campaign during the Libertarian Party National Convention was dedicated to exclaiming that the party should support freeing Ross Ulbricht, creator of the infamous black-market site, The Silk Road, who was arrested in 2013. Ulbricht certainly sacrificed everything for his beliefs, but Kaepernick is different.
Edward Snowden, famed US whistleblower, is a darling of many libertarians for exposing the government’s spying and breach of privacy. Again, he definitely sacrificed everything for his beliefs as he now resides in Russia and cannot return home, but Kaepernick is different.
Julian Assange founded Wikileaks to expose corruption and had to seek asylum in Ecuador (and may be ejected soon), but he is also different in the eyes of the libertarian masses.
I am aware that Kaepernick has not been arrested or forced out of his country like these other men, but the point is that this passivity to governing officials pressuring to silence protest due to whatever makes one dislike or disagree with the message or delivery is a slippery slope to having one’s own speech extinguished because they rubbed a politician the wrong way. The libertarian philosophy is one of the few today built on consistent principle and it’s time that it demonstrated our virtuousness even to opposition.