Controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is back in the news again. It seems that over the Labor Day weekend, Nike decided to use him for a new advertising campaign despite no longer being a professional athlete. Of course, Kaepernick’s continuing relevance is due to his previous kneeling in protest during the National Anthem while it played before a football game as well as other positions he’s taken on social issues. Many have cited this as the primary reason he is no longer employed by a professional football team.
The initial causes of Kaepernick’s protest were perceived injustices that he thought were happening at the hands of American law enforcement against racial minorities. When asked about his decision to do this, Kaepernick said:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
Regardless of what one thinks about this former athlete’s methods to convey his message, the abuse of police power is something that most people can generally condemn. So if this abuse is a problem where it exists, it is then fair to ask what is being done to improve the situation or what is preventing the situation from improving. What are the reasons for incidents like this continuing to happen even if they are rare and do not represent the vast majority of law enforcement? If there are solutions that could lessen the tendency for abuse, what barriers do those solutions face?
If one were to list the obstacles that were preventing necessary reforms to police practice and the elimination of the “bad apples” who contribute to these harmful incidents, it would be impossible to ignore the role that police unions play. Time after time these unions defend the most abusive and worst cops in their respective departments. Firing a bad cop is extremely difficult if he/she happens to be a union member. The ability to do away with the few members of law enforcement who behave in this manner would go a long way in improving the relationship with the police and their communities.
As is the case with so many unions, the ones comprised of policemen are closely in bed with politics. Elected officials frequently receive campaign contributions from police unions. Despite the protests of abuse by law enforcement generally coming from the political left, it is the Democratic Party that receives most of this funding. Thus, the reforms and firings that would need to take place in order to best prevent the situations that the left continues to protest are prevented from occurring due to the money from these unions that goes to leftist politicians.
In this regard, police unions are rarely ever different from other unions in the public sector. Just like firing bad cops is rarely ever done, firing bad teachers and other government employees is a monumental task. Of course, those unions make sure that this is the case. The result is often a system with very little accountability for the worst workers in every sector and level of government employment.
So perhaps it was rather fitting that Nike rolled out Kaepernick’s ad campaign on Labor Day weekend since the political left frequently lauds the existence of unions during this time. Those same progressives should do some soul searching in relation to how their ideology allows them to vehemently protest police abuse while championing unions who protect the abusers and the politicians who take the union’s money. In order to fix any problem, the root cause must be identified. Ignoring the role that police unions play in this matter will only keep this problem firmly in the ground.