#NFL, American Football, NFL, US Sports

Reaction to Kaepernick proves something is amiss

Last Saturday night, Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er’s quarterback chose to take a seat, if you will, in protest against the oppression of black and other minority groups in American society. Kaepernick – who is biracial and was adopted and raised by white parents – outlined his position clearly stating “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour”.

Kaep Sitting

Kaepernick sat for the anthem drawing mixed responses.

He went on to further state that “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” While it is often risky for us, as outsiders, to cast judgment on American society the documented events of the last three years give weight to Kaepernick’s comments.

The problem it seems, based on the response in America is that Kaepernick had the temerity to disrespect the anthem and by some extension, the centuries-old respect for the military enshrined in ‘Old Glory’. Incidentally, the US anthem has often come in for criticism due its racist overtones, and like all anthems was a product of its time.

Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner is a product of its time.

The national flag can mean many different things to many people. The recent 1916 commemorations here had some commentators examining the symbolism of the flag, and perhaps more importantly, how it is actually viewed by regular citizens. For some, the tricolour is sacred and a powerful national symbol and to others, who are no doubt proud to be Irish, the flag is merely a sporting banner.

Nevertheless, we are a neutral country and are not in a position to familiarise ourselves with the lengthy and complicated military history of the United States of America. The crux of the vitriol aimed at Kaepernick is that he disrespected the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces., something he has denied with absolute clarity. There’s no questioning the bravery required to step into a battlefield, but some of the Mom’s apple-pie horseshit that’s been spewed by NFL coaches and players is difficult to fathom.

When questioned on Kaepernick’s actions, Buffalo Bills’ head coach Rex Ryan’s opined that “the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country.” Firstly, that reads as either an incredibly simplistic or sycophantic statement and frankly does not make sense. The NFL does not, to the best of our knowledge, function as a result of American military interventions on foreign soil.

Kaepernick had every right to express an opinion and while many NFL players acknowledged this right they have reacted most negatively to his actions. The overwhelming response has been that Kaepernick disrespected members of the US military when he refused to stand and face the flag. Surely this is somewhat hypocritical? You can say whatever you want but your actions can’t peacefully reflect your views?

On a micro level, Kaepernick’s stance is most interesting as they came in the week when NFL rosters are cut to 52 and, after a year of injuries and reported personality clashes, it does not appear to be smart move from either a career or commercial perspective.

Unlike NBA players, who responded both in word and deeds to Trayvon Martin’s tragic death, NFL pros are expected to keep their views to themselves. It would be unseemly to express any view that may be deemed controversial and therefore detrimental to the juggernaut controlled by a collective of aging white men. Assuredly, there are those who wish to speak in the NFL but players are uncertain as to how this might affect their career prospects.

Kaepernick further stated that “this is not something I am going to run by anybody” and that “if they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.” A sceptic could say, with considerable substance, that Kaepernick’s football is going to be taken away from him anyway because he can’t even take the starting job in San Francisco from an also-ran like Blaine Gabbert. And not because of his stance on divisive issues in a simmering American society.

Some, like former NFL safety Marvin Harrison, have asked why Kaepernick never spoke when he was on a minimum contract and a relative nobody, but surely this is missing the point. Because of past deeds on the field, the 30-year-old is a household name in the United States and a voice that is more likely to be heard, if not listened to.

Too often, those in an elevated status in society choose to neatly sidestep any potentially divisive issues but Kaepernick has chosen to step outside the protective bubble and stand for something. The point is not really whether Colin Kaepernick was right to do what he did, more the fact that he showed the willingness to do so.

Surely, the public consciousness is skewed if the flag is taken to almost exclusively represent the U.S. armed forces and not the amassed principles and rights which the United States intends to uphold.

Donald Trump had his say, unsurprisingly, suggesting that “maybe he (Kaepernick) should find a country that works better for him”. Hardly a new departure for Trump but his views are typical of the those who disagree with Kaepernick’s actions. Rather than actually look at the wider problems in society, critics have focused on what they perceive to be the Nevada native’s lack of respect for the military.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump: Douchebag

In a country where guns are easier to purchase than booze, police officers clearly face a serious threat to their safety. In cities throughout the US, members of the police force are murdered every year. However, the videos we’ve all seen clearly point to an ailing system where police brutality towards minorities clearly exists. Although not according to the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

Apparently, front office executives won’t touch Kaepernick now – though the Minnessota Vikings might have to consider him – so it seems that his personal and football reputation are now held in equally low regard. It should, of course, be mentioned that the 49ers would face unfounded criticisms if they cut Kaepernick, something they were already considering before last week for purely footballing reasons.

Some US army veterans have shown their support for Kaepernick, substantiating the view that his actions were not intended as an affront to the service men and women but as a socio-political statement.

Kaepernick’s actions may come to absolutely naught -though interestingly he was joined in protest last night by his teammate, Eric Reed, a guaranteed starter – but it is refreshing to see an individual in an elevated position in society challenge what they perceive to be social injustice. However, the subsequent reaction confirms the long-held belief that sportspeople should keep their actions to the field, their thoughts to themselves and leave the politicking to the grown-ups.




NFL – Divisional Round Preview: Part 1

So, the war in Cincinnati has left some considerable battle wounds. After last week’s thuggery from Vontaze Burfict and the subsequent reaction of his teammate Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, the Bengals, for so long lovable losers, have definitely climbed a few spots in the most hated team in the NFL.

Burfict caught Pittsburgh Steelers’, Antonio Brown, with a late, illegal hit which forced the NFL’s leading wide receiver to leave the game under the concussion protocol. The Bengals lost, thanks, almost exclusively to late penalties against Jones and Burfict.

In the aftermath of the game, Pacman Jones – he of the ‘makin’ it rain’ $14.7 million lawsuit – said Brown was over-exaggerating his injuries because obviously, a guy wants to leave the field in his team’s most important game of the season. However, if nothing else, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones is a bastion of magnanimity and, he graciously offered that if Brown failed to clear concussion protocol for Sunday’s game in Denver, he would apologise.

Adam Jones

Adam Jones, on that fateful night, when he went O.T.T. ‘makin-it-rain’

Lo and behold, Brown hasn’t recovered sufficiently to play tomorrow and Jones, the venerable gentleman that he is, kept his word and apologised. No doubt, the apology will subside Brown’s anger.

This week sees the top seeds in the AFC and NFC enter the fray after their bye-week last week. Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are the number one seeds in their respective so, in a perfect world that follows seedings perfectly, these sides will enjoy home advantage all the way to San Francisco in February. Which, is certainly an advantage but, as last week proved, when all four visiting sides won, home advantage isn’t everything. That said, the seeding system in the NFL is extremely flawed with a divisional winner often finishing with a worse record than the teams in the wildcard positions. Anyway, that’s another day’s discussion.

Still, there are plenty of examples of Superbowl winners doing it the tough way: the 2008 Giants were the supreme road-warriors, ultimately ruining the New England Patriots unbeaten season with the most ridiculous catch in NFL history. Then, in 2012, Tom Coughlin’s side once more took to the road and again took down the Patriots in the Superbowl. So, being on the road is obviously disadvantageous but it’s certainly not fatal to a side’s chance of claiming the Lombardi Trophy.

Which, leads us to the AFC, and our favourite team remaining in this year’s playoffs. (It’s not the Patriots)

New England Patriots -v- Kansas City Chiefs, 16th January (9:30 p.m.)

Kansas City Chiefs continue to roll. Last week’s demolition of the Houston Texans saw Andy Reid’s men register their 11th straight victory, comfortably the longest winning streak of the sides remaining in the playoffs. Still, the Chiefs are garnering very little respect.


TB and AS

Tonight is the night when Alex Smith (r) can finally claim a playoff victory over a true superstar, in Tom Brady (l)


Perhaps, people are still refusing to believe in the tandem of coach, Andy Reid and quarterback, Alex Smith. Reid spent 14 years in Philadelphia, taking the Eagles to the playoffs nine times. However, in the eyes of people who measure success on Superbowl victories, Reid was perceived as a failure in the playoffs. We’re inclined to think that keeping a team at the top table for more than a decade represents unquestioned success, but Philadelphia’s sports fans are notoriously demanding and Reid was told to pack his bags after the 2012 season.

We already spoke about Smith’s relocation to Kansas City in 2012 and so it was that the unlikely duo set out on making the Chiefs a legitimate playoff team once more. And, the last three months have shown that this team are for real. Despite losing star running-back to a season-ending ACL injury, the Chiefs have perfected a game based on excellent pass-rush, a dual-threat running game and in Smith, a quarterback who knows how to protect the ball. Still, they enter Foxborough this evening as five-point underdogs.

This favouritism is hard to credit, particularly when the status of Rob Gronkowski is up in the air. ‘Gronk’ is absolutely vital if the Patriots are to make a deep run into the playoffs. It’s hard to describe him, beyond a 6ft 6in, 19st freak, with exceptional hands and a tendency to make opposing defenders look like flailing children. In effect, he is an auxiliary wide-receiver, which at that size is plain unfair.


Due to the carnage he causes on the field, Gronk can get away with outrageous photo shoots like this one.

However, it is reported that he got an injection in his knee on Thursday and even now, it’s unclear whether he’ll suit up. Returning from a broken foot tonight is Julian Edelman, Brady’s alternative to Gronkowski. At best, both will be banged up, while the worst-case scenario sees only one of Brady’s star catchers line up.

Brady is better than Alex Smith, of that there can be no question, but both show an equal regard for ball protection, the prevention of turnovers. That said, both men will be faced with exceptional pass rushes – K.C.’s Justin Houston will be a game time however – so the likelihood is that we’re going to see a lot of grinding three and four yard carries up the middle.

Brady does have that knack of making plays when it matters but his team has been extraordinarily vulnerable in recent weeks, losing four out of six, and the feeling is that Kansas City are playing at maximum efficiency at the moment.

Kansas City, a small sports market by U.S. standards, has already seen the Royals win the World Series in November. There hasn’t been this much excitement in Kansas since Dorothy Gale and her best buddy Toto got whipped off to Oz. OK, KC is in Missouri State but, anyway, we just get feeling that the Chiefs have grabbed that great intangible, momentum, and there is an unusual amount of uncertainty surrounding the Patriots.


US Map

Don’t forget y’all, Kansas City is in Missouri State, not Kansas. 

It won’t be pretty by any stretch but that’s just how the Kansas City Chiefs will want it.


Kansas City Chiefs by 3


Arizona Cardinals -v- Green Bay Packers, 17th January (1:00 a.m.)

We very stupidly fought with logic last week and went against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Just the night before we noted that Houston had one a shitty division and that the visiting Chiefs were a superior side. The Washington Redskins won an equally awful, NFC East, and yet we chose them as the home side over the playoff veteran, Green Bay Packers.

After a dismal opening quarter, Rodgers dragged his side back into the game with a late flurry before half-time. The Packers cruised from there but it would be remiss to heap all the praise on Rodgers as the Packers defence was immense for the final three-quarters of the game. However, we’re still wondering whether Washington was an average side, which ran amok over its divisional rivals, or whether Green Bay just made a statement last week.

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Green Bay are badly hamstrung by Jordie Nelson’s absence and Eddie Lacy’s ridiculous lack of professionalism but they still have Rodgers and an underrated defence. Tonight, however, they head to the desert and a rematch with the team who gave them a good, old shellacking in Week 16, the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona overcame the Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West, and are one of the surprise packages of this year’s regular season. They did lose 36-6 at home to Seattle on the final day of the season but it would dangerous to read too much into the result of a meaningless game.

Led by a resurgent Carson Palmer – who only a few years back was slipping into laughing stock territory – and a superb defence, Bruce Arians side silenced their critics with a game plan that combined explosive offence with an unrelenting defensive unit. Palmer’s go-to guy, the legendary Larry Fitzgerald has been joined by John Brown and Michael Floyd, to form one of the most underrated receiving corps in the NFL.



Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is the antithesis of the brash, loud-mouth NFL player.


Meanwhile, in the defensive backfield, the Cardinals possess one of the best ball-hogs in America, in Patrick Peterson. Peterson has risen to the lofty heights of Richard Sherman and Josh Norman, where opposing quarterbacks simply avoid throwing to his side of the field. It makes for a boring night for Peterson but, more importantly, decommissions the opposing team’s number one receiver for the night.

Admittedly, this current Arizona roster lacks playoff experience, and Rodgers was born for nights like this, but, whatever way you look at it, Arizona are a superior team. The Cardinals will be smarting from that home defeat to Seattle, while the Packers rarely get shamed by the same team twice.


Asking Aaron Rodgers to pull his team through in the desert may be a bridge too far.

How fitting would it be to see a shootout in the desert from two of the game’s premier quarterbacks. History and intangibles say Green Bay but for us, the Cards are quite simply the better team, playing at home.

Arizona Cardinals by 4


S.U.S. Picks: Kansas City Chiefs to beat New England Patriots (2/1)

Green Bay Packers (+7.5) over Arizona Cardinals (5/6)