Santa Clara Police Union Talks Boycott over Comments by 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who refuses to stand during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality, has prompted sharp rebukes from local law enforcement.

The Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association said its members could opt out of working voluntary security details at Levi’s Stadium, the team’s home field, because of Kaepernick’s comments and demonstration.

“If the 49ers organization fails to take action to stop this type of inappropriate behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities,” according to the letter, which the union published on its website Friday of last week. “The board of directors of the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior.”

Santa Clara police Chief Michael Sellers told the union to back off from those statements, reminding them that officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. “The safety of our community is our highest priority,” he wrote in a prepared statement Saturday. “I will urge the POA leadership to put the safety of our citizens first. I will work with both sides to find a solution. In the meantime, I will ensure we continue to provide a safe environment at Levi’s Stadium.”

Santa Clara City Council candidate Ahmad Rafah criticized the council for what he called a failure to open a dialogue about civil rights and racial equality as well as fair treatment of law enforcement.

“Our leaders should have had the foresight to get ahead of this problem and made whatever effort was needed to fix it,” he said. “Instead, the council let this problem unravel to the point of creating such social unrest that it now may affect the actual safety of stadium goers and our brave officers alike.”

When asked about Kaepernick’s protest, President Barack Obama told reporters on Monday that the quarterback is simply exercising his constitutional right. “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about,” President Obama said at a news conference in China. “And if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.”

Kaepernick—who is half black, half white—triggered polarizing reactions when he first sat through the national anthem before a 49ers preseason game with the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26. He later said he refused to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

During the team’s final preseason game in San Diego last Thursday, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem and said he plans to continue to do so into the regular NFL season, which starts next week.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he told NFL Media after the preseason game where he started his protest. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Police took offense at what they called a generalization. Santa Clara’s Chief Sellers called Kaepernick’s comments “disparaging,” “hurtful” and “distasteful,” but no less protected under the First Amendment. People claiming to take offense on behalf of military troops and veterans burned his jersey and launched a barrage of insults on social media.

Yet Kaepernick’s jersey sales have reportedly skyrocketed this past week. And while some some veterans took umbrage at the protest taking place during a ritual show of patriotism, other military personnel said they respect Kaepernick’s stance. 

One group of veterans wrote in an open letter that the quarterback’s actions stem from a long tradition of athletes—including San Jose State’s Tommie Smith and John Carlos—using their public profile to call attention to injustice. Plus, they added, his right to speak openly was one of the freedoms they fought to protect.

“As veterans, we implore all Americans to find your own way to challenge this status quo and advocate for ‘a more perfect union,’” reads the letter signed by a group called Veterans for Kaepernick. “Your method of protest may not be to refrain from the traditions surrounding our national symbols, and it doesn’t have to be. You have the same right as Colin Kaepernick to choose whether and how to advocate, a right we support and served for.”

They called his peaceful protest, however controversial, a form of patriotism.

“Indeed,” they wrote, “we see no higher form of patriotism.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

23 Comments

  1. Maybe some of the police don’t like what he has to say, but they still have a job to do. Rather than whining about Kaepernick’s right to free speech, maybe they should be more concerned about the real criminals on the team. Just Google “49ers arrest records” and you’ll see what I mean. Funny how some “fans” resort to burning Kaepernick’s jerseys and what not, but they’re perfectly OK with all the domestic violence, DUI’s, etc. committed by other players on the team.

    • >Funny how some “fans” resort to burning Kaepernick’s jerseys and what not, but they’re perfectly OK with all the domestic violence

      The wife that gets hit for not making the 7 layer bean dip for the game. The kid that gets smacked for not being a great athlete. Of course they’re OK with it. Sadly it’s so prevalent, not being a part of the sports fanaticism gets you labeled as an oddball in society.

      I’m OK with being an odd. Nothing cool about organized sports, it gets the same tax breaks as religion, and causes the same fanaticism in people. Ending this with the “fans” remember when Levi’s opened up, and 2 49er fans put a guy in a coma in the bathroom? Enough of this drain on society and the municipal budgets already.

      • Your personal accounts of “the wife” getting hit over a 7 layer bean dip and “the kid” who gets smacked are very disturbing. Perhaps seeking anger management will relieve your rage. Calling yourself odd is an easy escape. Seek help now!

    • Freedom of speech is a personal liberty to be utilized as an individual. In this case Kaepernick is making this statement while at his employment, while being paid, while wearing the official uniform of the 49er’s team. Therefore he is making this statement not as Kaepeernick, but as #7 of the 49er’s team.
      As to the police union’s position, the assignment to the stadium is extra employment. It is not to protect the community they are sworn to protect. They are hired and paid by the 49er’s to do these duties. It is the 49er’s team’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the fans, not the City of Santa Clara or the Santa Clara Police Department.
      Fan’s buy their tickets to support and enjoy the play of football by their team. They do not buy their tickets to be subjected to the political whim of a player.

  2. > Maybe some of the police don’t like what he has to say, but they still have a job to do.

    I don’t think Santa Clara can require police officers to be sold to private businesses to provide private security services for private events staged by and for the benefit of private businesses.

    I don’t need to list all of the ridiculous private events or venues where it would be embarrassing or demeaning to require police officers provide police services. Use your imagination.

    • Exactly! The 49ers are a private entity playing on their private property and the officers that work the game are on their days off and being paid by the 49ers, not the City of Santa Clara. Since when can a private company compel off duty police officers to work for that company when the officer is off duty? Does Apple, Facebook, Google etc have this right? Is that not involuntary servitude?

  3. Both of the comments above set the agenda well. They are thoughtful. As for Ahmad “Part of the Honda Ethics Probe” Rafah, permit to laugh. Kapernick has guts. The SCPOA has right to object, but Ahmad actually used this issue to defame the activism of Latinos who cite the election of Roger Martinez in SC as an achievement of electing the first ethnic councilmember. Rafah lied when he ignored this while wolfing down the Rocky Road bars.

  4. Apparently neither Chief Sellers nor President Obama understand that Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem – no matter his reasons, has nothing to do with his Constitutional rights. The U.S. Constitution protects a citizen’s free speech from government suppression, not the suppression of his employers.

    “A employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

    The Santa Clara police officers are in the right on this one: by tolerating Kaepernick’s behavior while he was on the job and representing the team, the 49ers bought into whatever might be this moron’s reasons, no matter how offensive they might be to his teammates, the team staff, stadium workers, the fans at Levi, the corporate sponsors, or the television viewers at home. And based on the inflammatory explanation he gave for his behavior he is guilty of creating hostility in the workplace.

    Kaepernick’s irresponsible behavior has been given a pass because that’s what we do in this nation – to little children and black people: give them a pass for their stupidity and poor behavior. What do you suppose would’ve happened if, instead of Kaepernick, the offending player had been white, and the issue had been the murder of unborn babies, or the epidemic of black lawlessness, or illegal immigration, or women having bastard children? Think the counterfeit constitutional expert in the White House would’ve jumped to defend that speech?

    This entire episode just highlights how low we’ve sunk as a nation. Colin Kaepernick’s brain, which has already been recognized as substandard for his occupation, has zero value in the marketplace of ideas… in other words, about the same as Obama’s.

  5. If I were a SCPD officer I would boycott just because of how the second team QB blamed PD officers in general regardless of race for officer involved shootings. Second, I have no desire to attend a 49er game due to parking headaches or to watch a multi-millionare take a knee. Third, I have no intention to even watch a niner game on TV. Guess that is my right as well. Finally moron cancelled church speech and willing to bet he never donates the million he promised.

  6. The First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” It does NOT apply to private employers restricting speech. It could apply to police departments if they retaliate against officers who refuse to work private security at a private stadium. Kaepernick must have been fed his new political and social awareness lines by his new girlfriend, because he could never have dreamed them up on his own. He’s dumb as a box of rocks. Case in point: after several years as an NFL QB he still has not mastered the simple concept of the play clock, resulting in dozens upon dozens of unnecessary time out calls. He must be the all-time record holder in that department.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=qq0_nyWVXCI

  7. Bottom line is if these jobs at the stadium are off-duty type jobs and are filled by officers voluntarily to earn extra money moonlighting than they can refuse to work them based on whatever their feelings are toward that organization. The Chief of Police could, I guess, pay for overtime to police the stadium at the cost to the tax payers. Protecting the community is the responsibility of the Chief, but not the off-duty responsibility of those officers. It is a football game for God’s sakes, not a terrorist attack or earthquake.

  8. Police authority rented to private companies. Not a good idea. Give the police a raise, instead, so they wouldn’t have work these pay-jobs just to live in the area.

  9. The 49ers do contract with a private security firm, but those personnel are limited in the duties they can perform. Those security personnel perform crowd control, baggage check and other non-badged activites.They cannot arrest people and carry no firearms, for example. The police officers work off-duty events at their own discretion. It is called “secondary employment” and is completely voluntary. The police have no obligation to provide “protect and serve” duties at these private events as they have sworn to do during their normal official police jobs.

    • > It is called “secondary employment” and is completely voluntary. The police have no obligation to provide “protect and serve” duties at these private events….

      Fair enough.

      I choose to NOT work at or patronize a venue where the employees disrespect Americans and the American flag.

  10. As of now, between Stub Hub, Ticketmaster, and Craigslist, there are about 15,000 tickets for sale for the 49ers home-opener. This game should ostensibly be a hot seller considering it is their season opener, Monday night football, and against their new west coast rival. Some tickets are going for dirt cheap. Kaepernick and the 49ers will now reap what they have sowed.

  11. Always get a good laugh when millionaire sport figures crack up after their 15 seconds of fame have passed. I am sure 2nd string QB Kaepernick will continue to string along his failing 15 seconds to include TV game shows, hand wringing guest on woman talk shows, and finally Dancing with the Stars. His juvenile attempt to dishonor the American flag will follow him through his life. Maybe he can get on the golf tour with Obama when he’s scuttled out of office and they can both pat themselves on the butt and console each other on their fleeting time in the public venue.

  12. The NFL is so astonishingly clueless.

    They have a rule that says the players must keep their jerseys tucked in their pants.

    It would take them two seconds to make a rule that says “All players must stand respectfully for the national anthem”.

    What are they going to do when they play a game in Mexico City and players disrespect the Mexican anthem? BORDER WAR!!!

    The NFL’s employees are disrespecting the NFL’s paying customers. No one would accept this from the counter clerk at McDonalds. No one is going to stand for this from the NFL for very long. What clueless jerks.

  13. Politics has no place in sports. Besides, refusing to stand for the national anthem is condemning all the good things about our country, as well as the bad.