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Colin Kaepernick, Jackie Robinson and Me

I wasn’t going to get involved in the Colin Kaepernick controversy at all. I had my reasons. The first is, I don’t care that much about the 49s or what happens in preseason football. Secondly, tossing your two-cents into a nation-wide social media battle is not the best way to make friends, and you may end up losing some. Third, I was pretty sure Kaepernick’s hill wasn’t the one I wanted to plant my flag in.

In case you don’t know, Kaepernick, a QB for the San Francisco 49s, remained seated during the national anthem when it was played before his team’s preseason game last Friday night. He was delivering a silent protest (which are sometimes the loudest) and a political message. The media picked up on it, and before you can say Twitter backlash, social media wires and sports talk shows everywhere were filled with folks who had an opinion on his action. He later explained his protest:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” he said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Within 10 minutes, people were taking sides. Like I said, I wasn’t going to join the Comment Wars, but this morning I read something over at NBCSports that changed my mind. It seems Jackie Robinson said this in his autobiography:

“There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

Jackie also felt the hesitancy of completely embracing the symbolism of the hand that held him and his ancestors down for so long. I was reminded, and once again taken aback, by just how recently slavery was a policy in our country. At times it feels like it happened a million years ago, but Jackie Robinson’s grandfather was a slave. Not so long ago, after all.

Racism in America, institutional and otherwise, is quite real, and it runs deep. Furthermore, contrary to the corporate media’s framing of racism as a black/white issue, it impacts Latinos and other people of color as well. Racism is still too large a piece of our country’s fabric, and the call to right the wrongs it creates is absolutely necessary.

Colin Kaepernick feels a compulsion to do something about a wrong he sees – and empathizes with. Last Friday he used the power of his visibility as a professional athlete to protest. At the time he was silent, but he had to know the cameras were watching, and he would be asked about it later. He is using the soapbox he has available. Like them or not, political protests are a part of the American sports experience, and have been for a long time. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the Black Power salute on the gold medal stands of the 1968 Olympics.

I get it. Some folks don’t like politics mixing in their sports. Me too, at times. An example: my good friend was denied the chance to box for Team USA when America boycotted the 1980 Russian Olympics. He was crushed when he lost that opportunity. (In a note of irony – we boycotted because Russia invaded…Afghanistan.)

Do you remember when God Bless America was a seventh inning stretch song? It was shortly after 9-11, and symbols of patriotism were everywhere to be found. Baseball adopted God Bless America, and it was inserted into every stadium’s game program.

I was never a fan of the Iraq War, and even less of a fan of singing about gods during baseball games. As the years (and the wars) drug on, God Bless America stubbornly remained a part of Dodger Stadium’s seventh inning stretch. I spent that time sitting out the song. Like Kaepernick and Robinson, I refused to take part in the pageantry and symbolism of things I fundamentally disagreed with. My protest was private, silent, and important only to me.  But it was there if you were looking.

Protests in sports aren’t going away. In fact, they’re becoming even more commonplace, because the old saying is still relevant and truer than ever. One picture now spawns thousands of words. I’m of the thought that’s a good thing for a democracy.







Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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Oscar Martinez
I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

49 thoughts on “Colin Kaepernick, Jackie Robinson and Me

  1. You are right, Oscar. Too many things wrong with this country and this world to ignore them all. Racism still exists and probably always will. Slavery was all the fault of the dominant whites but today’s racism can be blamed as much on blacks as whites. Slavery has been legally abolished for a hundred and fifty years, many black people have arisen to a place in the world where no one can realistically look down on them. But many of them haven’t helped themselves a bit, they deserve what people think of them. And that is equally true of many, many whites as well. All in all, if I was God, I’d be greatly disappointed at what mankind has descended to.

  2. As a veteran, I respect his right to protest, but also as a veteran, I think he is aiming at the wrong target. Also, he is no where being oppressed and neither are his people. There are people of all colors who find the going in life tough. Those who do the best they can to better themselves, do so with the opportunities they have. People of color have a lot of opportunities that a lot of white people never got. There were relaxed rules for college admission and lots of blacks went to school when white kids who had better grades were not admitted. I blame the system more than I blame any race. Racism is practiced still by both sides, and it is not a pretty thing to see. But saying that blacks matter more than any other race is not something I agree with. I think all races matter. I think we all matter as human beings. The national anthem is not God Bless America. It is our national song. And maybe if Kaepernick had worn a uniform, or had the desire to truly help his race, he would have done something a little more positive like actually helping the black community where he lives instead of spouting some BS about his race being oppressed. Personally I feel like the Vet who burned his jersey on TV. A lot of men died so you can be an asshole…….and a lot of them were black….go talk to a black service man and see how he feels about what you did.

  3. OK, I might go on for a while about this. People want to BLAME someone for their problems or plight. Friday I stopped at the local liquor store on the way home and while I am in line a black man (not the only one in there) walked in bitching that he had been stopped by the police in Clermont because he was the only black guy. You may find it shocking that I could not keep my mouth shut: “Look I have been stopped by the police here twice and I learned you don’t drove over 30 in this town. I have seen hundreds of people pulled over in this town and most are white. If you drive over 30 in this town, you are going to get stopped. White of black – you are going to get stopped.”

    We hear about Black Lives Matter and every police action shooting, but no one ever says that over 85% of the murders in cities like Indianapolis are where a young black man kills another young black man.

    1. 71% of black kids grow up without a dad.

    2. Over 50% of young black teenage girls get pregnant.

    3. An extremely high percentage of black teenagers do not graduate from high school.

    Those three things are the three things you should avoid if you do not want to be poor in America, yet those are the three things that permeate the black community.

    Yet, all we hear about is racism. It’s not all racism. The black community has a responsibility to fix this and the white and Asian and Latino community should help. There have been plenty of Chinese, Irish and other ethnic slaves. but today it’s all about Black Slavery. Get over it! I didn’t do it. My parents and grandparents didn’t do it. In fact some of my ancestors were Irish slaves.

    This is not a perfect country, so I suggest if you don’t like it, the government should supply you with a ticket to anywhere else in the world you want to go.

    P.S. This was not a jab at you Oscar. I’m done.

    1. ya know, there is something I need to point out. The stat you state, “that over 85% of the murders in cities like Indianapolis are where a young black man kills another young black man,” is an entirely meaningless stat.

      I say this because a vast majority of folks are killed by other people who are of the same race. Per the 2014 FBI stats, ( states that 82% of whites killed were killed by another white person.

      The same is true for all other races, as well.

      There’s a very simple reason for this. We are still a very self-segregated society (so to speak). So White folks are more likely to live in neighborhoods filled with mostly other White folks. Same goes for Hispanics and Blacks. Furthermore, you are far more likely to be killed closer to home (primarily because you spend most of your time closer to home). Therefore, since you are more likely to live in a neighborhood filled with people just like yourself and are then more likely to be killed closer too home, then it stands to reason that you are far more likely to be killed by someone of your own race.

      1. ernest reyes, good comments, it’s true about us still being “a very self-segregated society”. We humans have always been very tribal.

        The stat that stood out to me in your attachment was that blacks, who are approximately 13% of the U.S. population committed over 47% of total murders. That indicates to me a community in turmoil. What say you?

        1. Let me preface this by saying that I’m no sociologist. I think that turmoil might be good word since the cause is likely to be varied and complex.

          It could be anything from economic opportunities to historical institutions and everything in between. I dunno. I always keep in mind, though, that the institutions that once existed have only been gone for the equivalent of two to three generations. And on top of that, it’s not like those areas decided on their own accord to end the idea of separate but equal. They were forced to change, and it stands to reason that opportunities didn’t come quickly. And when opportunities aren’t availble on a systemic level then only bad things can happen.

          1. The causes are perhaps varied and complex when you try to grapple with them in the context of history, but they are also amazingly simple. Your destiny is entirely a product of your own behavioral habits; what you actually do. When your own behavioral habits are such that you don’t graduate from high school or have a substandard education, when you internalize a dysfunctional subculture that sees violence and brutality as attractive traits, and when your identity is rooted in the rejection of a larger culture and its cultural norms, then your future is bleak.

            Our culture values certain cultural traits and behaviors. We value the ability acquire needed skills and education. We value long-term goal setting and the discipline to reach them. We value courtesy and respect towards others, good communication skills, sociability and empathy, and the ability to “win friends and influence people.” There are others that have been documented extensively in every self help section of the local Barnes and Noble. Our culture typically rewards the mastery of these behaviors with things like a job that pays well, the ability to live in a good neighborhood, and the ability to feel as if your life has some meaning. If you behave in opposition to these values, your life will be generally unhappy, and probably short.

            The complex question is, after trillions of dollars in Johnson’s Great Society initiative, decades of scholarship money and Pell grants and affirmative action and busing..and endless hand wringing and ruminating over what it means to be more inclusive and root out bias in all its forms, ..why there is still these pockets of dysfunctional behavior.

            What Colin did is a distraction. It it part of what I refer to as the Big Lie. It is this unfortunately very successful attempt to deflect away attention to this fundamental problem of individual behavior patterns creating a terrible outcome. Instead, we refer to these nebulous concepts of “structural racism” or this statistically disproven current hysteria over police shootings, or, in an unfortunate larger sense, redefine our country itself as fundamentally flawed and evil, and based and rooted in the exploitation and subjugation of others. Why respect this country or identify with this country and its ideals and common values and accomplishments and struggles when you believe that it evil at its core?

            So rather than take an honest look at social issues and what causes dysfunction, we turn the entire process on its head. We blame and reject the positive behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. We reject the values and laws and the historical tradition, such as the notion that all men are created equal or the Judeo Christian moral tradition, that allowed the original social justice changes and that gave Americans the opportunities they have, but don’t always take advantage of. It is the great travesty of our time that, in a country that has more opportunity and less want than any other in human history, there are segments of the population that are in complete chaos and reject those opportunities.

  4. Do you suppose it ever occurs to him that people who act like his actual father are one the main reasons racism is so widespread?

  5. Wow.

    That’s all I will say to the comments.

    To Kaepernick and the NBA guys, I respect and support your right to speak out against injustice, against tyranny. And make no mistake about it, that it is what they are speaking to. They are speaking to Trayvon, and Michael Brown, and Alton Sterling, and Tamir Rice, Laquan, and Eric, Dontrelle, Ezell, Akai, and hundreds of others murdered over the years and the thousands who are imprisoned unlawfully. They are trying to stop a revolution. If you can’t see that I feel for you.

    1. Trayvon? I suppose the “White Hispanic” should have just let him beat his brains to mush against the sidewalk?

      Michael Brown? I suppose the cop should of just given the thug his gun? Obviously, you don’t have any feeling for the “minority” store-owner Michael Brown had just assaulted and robbed.

      You are misguided, if you can’t see that I feel for you.

  6. 1) today’s racism can be blamed as much on blacks as whites.
    2) Also, he is no where being oppressed and neither are his people
    3) People of color have a lot of opportunities that a lot of white people never got
    4) I didn’t do it. My parents and grandparents didn’t do it.
    5) Do you suppose it ever occurs to him that people who act like his actual father are one the main reasons racism is so widespread?

    I’ll guess these statements came out of the mouths (and keyboards) of white males, and not minorities.

    Oscar, this is a Dodger board. Yes, the Kap thing is an interesting issue, but it’s not a Dodger issue. Why did u feel the need to write this on a Dodger board?

    1. I don’t think I entirely agree with you on your last point.

      You could argue that because of the legacy of Jackie Robinson and his impact (especially with regards to racial issues) on the game and the country an issue like this is relevant to the Dodgers – at least in terms of providing an historical context.

      It’s pretty clear what Jackie’s thoughts on the matter would have been, and due to his relationship with the Dodgers that makes the Kaepernick thing relevant.

    2. Bobby,
      Ernest did a good job of explaining some of the reasoning behind why I thought this article would be relevant to this board.
      But you asked me, so here are another couple of my own reasons:
      1. Jackie Robinson’s quotes inspired me to take up the keyboard on this issue. You can’t get much more “Dodgers” than Jackie.
      2. My contemplation over the protests in sports issue reminded me of my own silent protests about God Bless America, which I carried out at Dodger Stadium. You can’t get much more “Dodgers” than Dodger Stadium.
      Which, by the way, is often referred to as Chavez Ravine, which was the name of the neighborhood that occupied the Elysian Hills before the stadium. That name conjures up racially-sensitive memories for many in the community I grew up in.
      3. Some folks don’t like politics mixed in their sports, but it happens all the time. Whether it’s the St. Louis Rams displaying the “Hands up, Don’t shoot” protest, or the NFL partnering with the military to blatantly exploit veteran’s reunions with their families as recruiting commercials for the endless wars overseas. It happens all the time, and this was my humble use of the soapbox I have.

      1. Interesting about Chavez Ravine. I have heard there were hard feelings by some. What’s the story?

        An aside, one of my childhood neighborhoods is gone also. Mine is buried under the Simi Valley freeway. I choose to get a little smile and tell the wife and kids, “I used to live right here” when we drive that route. If I were you, I would probably tell people “My house used to be right over home plate”.

        My parents always felt that the state didn’t pay a fair price for their home.

    3. Why should that make any difference? I grew up in a broken home. My mom put me in a home for kids when I was 10. When I finally went to a foster home, my foster father was abusive. I had no where to turn in those days because the police would believe the parent before the kid, and this was before they really cracked down on child abuse. The only reason I got away from all of that was because at 17 I quit high school and joined the army. I learned responsibility and how to take orders and be part of a team from the Army, not any father figure I ever had. I was under privileged or what ever anyone wants to call it, but I do not murder my own kind, steal or break the law. Just because I am white, does not mean I do not see what is happening right in front of my eyes. I lived through the Watts Riots in 65, so I know what lawlessness is. I also had a lot of black friends in the Army. Those guys wanted a better life, and went after it. If you are not too damn lazy, you can make it no matter what color you are.

      1. good for you man. u made something of yourself after a bad situation. i wish more people were like u, in that respect

  7. Thats very interesting about Jackie Robinson.

    I only have one thing to say. While both sides have their points, those who see Kaepernick as the privileged and ungrateful, are wrong. He’s stepping up. It’s those who have made it who can make the impact. Jackie Robinson, Obama … You can go down the list of historical political figures, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson … Most of them didn’t crawl out of the gutter and even if they did, like Abe Lincoln, it’s after they’ve “made it” that they could something about what they see as unjust. I don’t agree with the way Kaepernick is protesting the anthem, which in my opinion diffuses the message as it could be twisted to be an affront to the military, but I don’t look down any athlete, black or white, Kaepernick or Tebow, for using his few years of fame to promote core values of democratic society.

  8. Another thing about Jackie Robinson is that he served his country in a segregated military that fought and died for a country, where a person of his color, through harassment, intimidation and literacy testing were denied the right to vote. Their heroics are well documented, but ask a Black veteran about how he really feels deep inside? They were subjected to Jim Crow laws, that did not only exist in the South, but the North and as far west as Arizona, where I live. Within my lifetime in the 50s and 60s, people of his color were still being lynched, castrated, brutalized by law enforcement and even had their children murdered in their own churches by local white supremacists. I remember watching college football games on a Saturday afternoon between, schools like Alabama and Mississippi during the late 60s. I remember looking the offensive and defensive lines, seeing only white socks and white calves. Just only 50 years ago. These are the types of things, that black parents and grandparents pass down to younger generations that perpetuate these attitudes and of inferiority and victimizations. Who’s fault is it? B the way, my favorite Dodger at the time, Willie Davis. Mr. Timmons, you being a current Hoosier. I’m hoping that you should know better, as far as Indiana’s history with bigotry and open violence. The reformation of the KKK in the 1920s with a membership, that outnumbered any of he Southern states at that time. I know this too well. Only because, most of my paternal family populates Dubois County. To this day, I am still appalled by their attitudes. Has anyone ever sat down with a Black person…young or old, and asked them the source of their rage and frustration? Most, may say it is “Whitey.” Like, Mike Norris said, “it’s the system.” I am not going to exaggerate and say I have a lot of Black friends. Because I don’t, But, I have one true friend that is African-American. He’ll tell you it’s the system, which is and always has been….racist in nature since the founding of this country. “We helped build this country!” “We still never got our 40 acres and a mule.” Even if you attain some success. ” We never get the benefit of the doubt on how we got it. I still get watched when I enter a store to shop. Kids still drive by me while I’m walking and call me the “N” word. He told me, “You don’t know what it is like to be one of us and you never will.”

    1. There is truth to that, but it’s that way on the other side of aisle too. Some blacks are very racist to white people and Asians might be some of the worst. Chinese hate Japanese and Filipinos hate Japanese, etc. I’m married to one and I know. The KKK is dying. I was proud of what happened in a little hick, predominately-white town in Indiana last week:

      There is hope. I agree with itravel that some people may be like that… but not all. I have many black friends and we have some heated discussions about this very issue. Sometimes when you are sensitive to something or about something you see things that simply aren’t what you think. We all do that.

      The dude that killed Trayvon Martin was a scumbag but a racist? From what I have seen he is an equal opportunity offender. Michael Brown? No rational person could ever look at the facts of that case and determine he was a victim. I’m sorry he died, but don’t do stupid shit like rob stores and try and try to grab a cops gun.

      I seriously doubt that anyone on the board has more reason to hate police or has had any worse injustice done against them than me. Very few people have been screwed by the system more than me. But, I fixed it and moved on. I don’t live in the past – I move forward.

      When you blame someone for your plight or lot in life, you give up your power to them and they always control you (in your mind).

      We need to stop the blame game and fix shit!

  9. We need to get past Jon Gray. I haven’t watched the Rockies, but I’ve had him all year on my fantasy league team and he’s been dealing.

  10. I really don’t want to do politics, law, theology, philosophy, sociology or anything but baseball here. I could write a brief’s worth here but don’t want that here.

    This is a Dodgers’ blog. I don’t believe that anyone is suggesting that the Dodgers are currently acting out of any racial animus – that guys like Kendrick, Maeda, or Urias aren’t getting a chance due to race. If anything, baseball is a meritocracy or close to it – if you wear Blue, I don’t care what you are. If you don’t I probably won’t root for you.

    Play ball!

  11. Speaking of Urias, there’s a Dodgers Digest blog entry about shutting him down soon, from Nosler.

    I don’t know. I’m very torn about that. Nosler does mention that the kid’s velocity is trending brown. But I’d like to see him thrown into the fire on the postseason.

    (Let’s do a 7 man rotation ….)

    1. I think he will be able to pitch up to 140 innings. I have noticed that his velocity is down some, but that could also be by design. I think he’s good for a couple or three more starts.

      1. It was stated recently that he was working at lower velocity by design. When he really needs it he amps it up. There is no reason to shut him down.

  12. Has anyone here noticed that the Dodgers have largely stopped hitting the past few games?

    1 – 0 (w)
    3 -2 (w)
    4 – 6 (l)
    0 – 4 (l)
    1 – 0 (w)

    They’ve scored 9 runs in 5 games up to today and 0 in Coors against the Rox!

    Time to panic?

  13. actually, I wish they left Dayton in for this inning so that he could go the whole inning.

    Today’s gona be another use of 4-5 guys, and if we somehow score a couple runs, we could be in for extra innings. It’d be nice to have a guy go multiple innings and save other guys

    1. You guys always phrase it like it’s the pitcher’s fault he only pitched one inning. He didn’t take himself out, the pea-brained manager is the one who determines how many innings a pitcher gets. (Unless FAZ is dictating that too.) The manager creates his own problems, for he’s the one who makes out the lineup and controls the pitchers. Or is he just following orders?

  14. The Dodgers will stick to the plan with Urias. Remember, he’s not supposed to be here. 120-130. The 150 prediction was fantasy.

    Should the Cubs panic? Uh, no.

    Yes, I’ve noticed a lull in the offense. Quiet so far.

  15. The El Gasolino nickname was one that I stole. The Braves and several other teams featured a journeyman reliever named Juan Berenguer who threw hard but was either very good or very bad. When he was going well, he was called Senor Smoke – when not so good El Gasolino.

    1. Baez is so slow, he’s more like La Muerte Lenta.

      Once I had two beers before he got through 6 pitches. I tried to make that a game to liven things up but the bartender said no.

  16. It’s games like this that reminds me that our team is a house of cards.

    I’m not throwing in the towel. Every team has their problems. But it’s going to be a strange ride this year to the postseason.

  17. Oscar great article. Three things:
    1 this had happened before with a basketball player from Denver. Same thing refused to stand up, the media turned it into a circus. It went away.

    2 did you see the PBS Jackie Robinson documentary? He was much more conservative than we think. He did not want his children to have anything to do with any “radical” groups.

    3. Do you know the story of Jose Feliciano playing the national anthem at the 1968 World Series? I think it was in Detroit. Call it artistic liberty.

  18. Flags, like uniforms, are used to bring an identity to groups of people, sometimes for good and sometimes not. They have caused wars and they have won gold metals. They seems always to spark emotion. Imagine if there were no flags. No uniforms. Except for baseball, of course.

    Back to baseball. Greinke goes tonight against the giants. I hope he has his A game. He has had a rough season, but a couple of wins against the giants down the stretch will make his former team and its fans happy.

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