The difference between Colin Kaepernick and Tyreke Smith

I’ve written quite a bit about Colin Kaepernick, and I’ve made my stance pretty clear. He has made some flat out ridiculous statements, and isn’t talented enough for the distraction to be worth it. The biggest reason he doesn’t have a job is himself, and he lacks the self-awareness to realize he is damaging his career.

I give that background because another athlete has made a political statement that many will view as similar, and I don’t have a problem with it. Is that hypocritical? No. Here’s why.

From a football perspective, it’s simple. The first sentence of the Eleven Warriors article sums it up.

Cleveland Heights four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith didn’t have much to prove during Ohio State’s one-day camp on Saturday, as he’s already one of the most sought-after prospects in the country.

Colin Kaepernick isn’t quite “sought-after”, he’s marginal. When you’re marginal, you don’t get to make waves on hotbutton issues. If you’re a distraction, teams don’t want you. This is a sports truth that isn’t hard to grasp.

Let’s move to the bigger issue. “I hope I don’t get killed for being black today,” is not the same as comparing the police to the slave patrol, or any of the other divisive statements Kaepernick has made. Smith’s message isn’t divisive or inflammtory, he’s not pushing the “pigs in a blanket” narrative.

“I decided to wear the shirt because I wanted to bring attention to the epidemic of blacks being killed at an alarming rate,” Smith said. “What we would like to do is have people talk about these issues to reduce the murder rate of African-Americans.”

“The shirt was created to bring light into the every day problems that blacks face between police and black-on-black crimes,” Tyreke’s older brother, Malik, said.

The negative reaction to this shirt hinges on the idea that this is an inherently anti-cop message. Instead, it’s anti-murder of young black men, in any form or fashion, by anyone. Kaepernick disrespected what the American flag represents, and those who have fought and died to defend this country, along with defending an evil dictator, and a host of other controversial statements. Smith is promoting a healthier black community. Don’t act like those are the same.

Smith’s message is also a dose of reality, while not demonizing and stereotyping an entire group. I know a lot of police officers, and they are great people. Just as in any group, a few bad apples have ruined their perception. Demonizing and stereotyping is how we get to these points in the first place. With that said, it’s hard to watch the Philando Castile video , know that the officer got off scot-free, and then act like things are fine. Is the system broken? Yes. Is driving a wedge deeper and deeper between law enforcement and the black community the answer? No, it only makes things worse. Kaepernick chose the latter, Smith didn’t.

People only read headlines. They’ll see the headline, the shirt, and they’ll make the comparison. That’s a shame, because Tyreke Smith isn’t Colin Kaepernick. He’s not even close.

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