San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines last Friday when he refused to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest what he considers to be America's legacy of oppressing black people and other people of color.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick said. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick's statement quickly created a rift between his fans who split into two camps: those who felt that he'd done the right thing for voicing his opinion on racism and those who felt as if his refusal to stand was deeply unpatriotic and insulting.
While the conversation over the merits of Kaepernick's actions continued to roll along, the 28-year-old went about his business getting ready for the upcoming football season until Thursday, when old photos of a pair of his socks resurfaced online. The socks in question happen to feature cartoon pigs dressed as cops, a reference that many took as an insult to police officers.
“I think the league is in a downward spiral regarding their obligations to the public under Commissioner Roger Goodell," National Association of Police Organizations head Bill Johnson told USA TODAY. "and this is just another example of that."
According to Johnson, it wasn't fair that Kaepernick was seemingly allowed to make statements about his views on police officers while the NFL denied the Dallas Cowboys' proposal to pay tribute to the officers gunned down during a protest shooting last month.
“It’s just ridiculous that the same league that prohibits the Dallas football club from honoring the slain officers in their community with their uniforms stands silent when Kaepernick is dishonoring police officers with what he’s wearing on the field," Johnson said.
In response to his critics, Kaepernick clarified just exactly what message he'd meant to convey in wearing them.
“I wore these socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust,” Kaepernick wrote in an Instagram post. "I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before these socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately."