An old episode of Cops was on the other day.
In it, a couple of Portland’s finest came upon a man protesting global warming. He was riding his bike around downtown Portland, Oregon, with a protest sign attached to the back of his bike.
Oh, and he was completely naked.
The man said his protest was very effective because it sparked several real conversations about the dangers of global warming.
Instead of taking this man to jail, the cops made him put on a pair of shorts and warned him to keep them on. Then they lectured him about how he should protest.
That is what I found offensive.
Who are the cops to tell the man how he should protest? If he’s breaking the law, which he was, then arrest him. But it was not the place of those cops — or anybody else — to tell the man how he should protest.
If you want to protest, you protest the way you see fit, then you deal with the consequences. That’s the way it works.
You want to get naked to protest global warming, then by all means get naked. Then go to jail. Any good protest has to have a little bit of shock value, otherwise it’s just a letter to the editor.
A naked man gets attention.
That brings us to the curious case of unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has repeatedly been told how he should protest.
What is even more disturbing than a naked man riding a bike have been the Facebook memes taking joy in the likelihood that Kaepernick exercising his right to free speech has apparently cost him his NFL career.
Remember, the quarterback sat down then took a knee during the national anthem before football games last year to protest the way people of color are treated by police.
This, of course, was met with outrage and intense anger by people who have never been guilty of driving while black.
People who took to the streets to protest — sometimes violently — were told they should protest peacefully, and Kaepernick did just that.
The then-49ers quarterback didn’t break a window. He didn’t spit on a cop. He simply took a knee during the national anthem. Nothing, other than feelings, was hurt.
The protest was also clearly something Kaepernick felt he had to do. Why else would he put his money where his knee was by donating $1 million to causes the fight oppression around the world?
He made $11.9 million to start 11 games for the 49ers last year, so Kaepernick is not oppressed. Many people are, however, and the protest was about them. An unoppressed man protesting on behalf of the oppressed should not be mocked for not being oppressed, but Kaepernick was.
Naturally, people were offended by the quarterback kneeling during the anthem, and they should be. Such a gesture is highly offensive form of protest, especially to people who fought for the country or have sons or daughters currently fighting for it.
But it certainly got everybody’s attention, like a good protest should.
Like Kaepernick has the right to his opinion, those who were offended by the quarterback have the right to voice their opinion about the quarterback, and they did. He was booed, taunted and called all kinds of nasty names both in person and on social media.
There is no need to feel sorry for the quarterback. Just like the naked man probably expected a visit from the cops, Kaepernick had to figure he would face repercussions of making such an unpopular stance.
We could point out the hypocrisy of fans who routinely look the other way when wife beaters hit home runs or score touchdowns.
We could ask where the outrage was when Ray Lewis was arrested for a double murder, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, testified against his friends, allegedly funded his friends’ defense, and then watched as his friends were acquitted because the jury didn’t find Lewis as an honest witness.
Forget that the quarterback was disrespecting the flag that stands for the freedom for people to disrespect the flag.
Even forget how Kaepernick one upped Donald Trump by donating $50,000 to Meals on Wheels right after the president, whose proposed budget would make devastating cuts to the program, blasted the quarterback at a rally.
Instead, let’s focus on the fact that Kaepernick can’t land a job in the NFL, not even with the Cleveland Browns. I’m pretty sure there’s four or five guys working at the mine in Butte who would be better quarterbacks than the ones the Browns have rolled out the last couple decades.
Seeing somebody lose a job because of an opinion or political stance is never a good situation. Even when it’s a mildly racist radio man who said something stupid about Native American basketball, it’s sad to see people lobby for another person to lose his livelihood over an opinion.
As much as I despise the saying, it is a very slippery slope indeed.
If a quarterback with a not-so-distant Super Bowl appearance on his résumé can’t even get a job as a backup quarterback because of his political stance, then you can potentially lose your job, too.
It is not out of the question that you could lose your job because you like Donald Trump. Or because you don’t like Donald Trump.
Yes, sitting down or taking a knee for the national anthem can be a distraction for a team. But so can and end zone dance. Or a deflated-ball controversy. Or a bye-week vacation.
Scoring touchdowns makes distractions go away in a hurry.
Lewis went on to win the Super Bowl MVP trophy a year after two men died on the streets in Atlanta. Even if the future Hall of Fame linebacker is telling the truth and he merely obstructed justice in the double murder, is that less offensive to you than a quarterback not standing during the Star Spangled Banner?
Is disrespecting the flag really, in your eyes, on par with knocking out your fiancé in an elevator?
Is it really worth ending a football career that was so promising a few short years ago?
Before you answer that, make sure you’re comfortable living in a world where political remarks can cost you your livelihood, too.
The Cops episode faded to commercial as the demoralized protester, now wearing shorts, slowly rode his bike down the street.
Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I hope he lost those shorts again the second the Cops turned the corner. If you’re going to protest, you have to be shocking.
Anything less is just offensive.
— Bill Foley, who often gets naked to protest, writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.