I don’t tweet much. Never have, not my thing. And yet I’ve spent much of the past 48 hours managing my Twitter account — monitoring notifications, reading, responding. It all started Sunday morning when, watching ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown, I felt the need to stand up for Trent Dilfer.
The former NFL quarterback offered a counter opinion to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest racial injustices by refusing to stand for the national anthem. Dilfer didn’t talk about the military or patriotism, he talked about football and the power of locker room distractions and the role of an NFL backup quarterback — all things he’s qualified to comment on. Only his comments followed impassioned commentary from his ESPN colleagues, Charles Woodson and Randy Moss. Dilfer didn’t stand a chance on social media. Immediately he was blasted, told to shut up, called a racist.
I didn’t agree with much of what Dilfer said, only his right to offer his opinion.
If you believe Colin Kaepernick has a right to protest, as I do, then you MUST believe Trent Dilfer has a right to provide a counter opinion
— Mike Beacom (@mikebeacom) September 11, 2016
I found it ironic. For more than a week, Kaepernick and his supporters had been arguing for why he had a right to take a stand and speak his mind on social injustice. Many of the millions who disagreed with Kaepernick had told him to shut up and honor our country and flag; the millions supporting Kaepernick argued the flag and the country it represents allow all voices to be heard. And, suddenly, the situation flipped. Suddenly, Kaepernick’s supporters were trying to drown out an opinion they didn’t agree with.
When my post began to reach outside of my small circle of followers late Monday, those opposed to Dilfer’s views tried to pivot. One such example…
NOBOOOODDDYYYY said Dilfer didn't have the right to his opinion. We're mad that he basically told Kae to be quiet https://t.co/GVeCHA4Esf
— queen of trash (@CraicHo) September 13, 2016
Not true. LOTTTTTTTS of people said that. Search “Dilfer shut up” or “Dilfer stfu” or a dozen other word/acronym combinations. You’ll find countless examples. It exposes maybe an even bigger problem facing America and our attempt to improve social conditions: We aren’t willing to listen. Same as many now only tune in to the news channel delivering the political spin of their liking, Americans only want to hear their beliefs spewed back at them. All other viewpoints are merely noise, or as one person responding to my post described, “garbage rationale.” That same person suggested Dilfer’s comments were “laced with racism.” Another called him ‘bigoted’ for what he had to say.
The Merriam-Webster definition of bigot: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).
What did Dilfer say, exactly, that meets the definition of bigoted? Seems the word ‘bigot’ gets applied too loosely these days. And it seems everyone is free to interpret someone else’s words however they so choose. Back to my “laced with racism” friend:
@mikebeacom "whose job is to be quiet and sit in the shadows" — coded way of saying black man shouldn't speak up because its not his place
— Andrew Simon Thomas (@Athomitron) September 13, 2016
Uh huh, ya OK. I believe Dilfer was speaking only about football when he offered his opinion on Sunday. I found nothing in his comments, or in how he delivered those comments, that had a scent of racial insensitivity. He was talking only about football and the potential dangers to consider when social issues and game plans intersect.
Now, the fair counter to Dilfer’s comments is Kaepernick’s stance is above the game of football, and that he is using his celebrity to bring attention to these issues. This I agree with. Just as much of the country shamed John Carlos and Tommie Smith for raising their fists at the 1968 Summer Olympics to protest social injustice, much of the country has shown its disapproval for Kaepernick’s choice on “when” and “where,” more so than “what.”
I believe Kaepernick has that right, and he has demonstrated his ability to eloquently communicate the message. People are listening, which suggests he is, in fact, a worthy person to deliver this message.
But progress comes from conversation, not a single messenger. To be heard, you have to be willing to listen.
The question is, Does anyone want to listen? I doubt many of those who have opposed Kaepernick’s views have listened to his words, same as many of those who support his stance didn’t want to hear from Dilfer and don’t seem interested in anyone who has any view on the matter other than what supports their cause fully.
No one is able to label Dilfer or Kaepernick ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ and everyone has the right to voice their opinion on any issue, whether oppressed or privileged, and regardless of the depth of their perspective on the topic. The freedoms of our country allow for that right, and the flag represents those freedoms. The conversation is what brings progress, it’s just that so few believe such a conversation can happen. Tweeted one person:
lol when you find the people that want to have open dialogue and ears, please @ them. https://t.co/1qO74ZUjJD
— Tiwaworks ⬅click2fol (@Tiwaworks) September 13, 2016
So I did. @mikebeacom