By Tim Whyte
I’m not boycotting anything. Not. One. Damn. Thing.
Except boycotts. Those, I’m boycotting.
It’s the latest in many recent signs of the Apocalypse: Last week the head of the California Democratic Party found out In-N-Out Burger contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the California Republican Party.
Boom. The liberals were boycotting Double Doubles.
Then this, from the right:
Nike put scorned quarterback Colin Kaepernick on its 30th anniversary ad campaign. Apparently, it’s not the media, but Kaepernick who is the real Enemy of The People, because many conservatives are boycotting Nike and, in some cases, literally burning otherwise perfectly good sportswear.
You’ve all gone mad.
Do I think burger joints are wise to be perceived as overly political? It has its risks, that’s for sure. Fast food joints need to appeal to the masses. Imagine how much more popular Chick Fil-A would be if it didn’t have a history of donating to groups opposing gay marriage.
Although, let’s not kid ourselves: Most of the people boycotting In-N-Out for supporting Republicans are probably vegan anyway.
So, no big sacrifice there.
(Note to all my Democrat and vegan friends: That was a JOKE. Remember, it’s all about the laughs…)
Do I disagree with Kaepernick’s approach to advocating for social justice? Yes. But not because I don’t think he has a right to protest, or to disrespect the flag. I would defend his or anyone else’s right to protest, even by disrespecting the flag, although I’d rather they didn’t. That’s just a straight-up First Amendment question. Free speech means tolerating others’ free speech.
And, I understand the point he was trying to make about the frequency of police shootings involving people of color. Not all of the shootings have been unjustified, but a significant percentage of them were unjustified, the issue is real, and raising awareness about it is a worthy goal. (Of course, he shot himself not in the foot, but in the head, when he started doing things like wearing a Fidel Castro T-shirt and socks depicting police officers as pigs. That’ll damage your credibility as a level-headed messenger of justice.)
Back to the taking-a-knee thing: The problem, in my opinion, is that he wanted to do it while he was on his employer’s dime. If his employer says it’s OK to protest while on the job, then it’s OK. If not, then it’s not. You can protest all you want during your non-work hours.
Suppose you’re bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly on a Sunday afternoon. And you decide THAT is the time to stage a protest against police brutality — or anything else. You’d be fired before you could finish asking, “Paper or plastic?”
Further: I believe Kaepernick isn’t playing football right now because his skills no longer outweigh what a pain in the ass it would be to have him on your team. And if you think he’s the only one ever treated that way, look up Tim Tebow, the devout Christian and darling of conservative football fans everywhere. By the time his football career ended, the word was out: His skills as a quarterback didn’t outweigh what a hassle it was to turn your team into the Weekly Tim Tebow Media Circus.
Oddly, the Tebow and Kaepernick situations are similar, though they are dramatically different personalities.
Football executives are pragmatic that way. If Kaepernick or Tebow were the second coming of Russell Wilson, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, I believe they’d both be playing today.
I digress. I’m not boycotting Nike any more than I am boycotting In-N-Out. It’s silly. Especially those who took to actually burning Nike products they had previously bought with their own presumably hard-earned cash. Don’t like Kaepernick? Ignore the Nike ads.
I’ve got a pair of Nike shoes at home and I’ll probably wear them this weekend just like I would on any other weekend.
All this boycotting because this business or that one disagrees with us politically — it’s over the top. Yes, I understand people have a right to vote with their feet, and their wallets. In fact, I would defend your right to boycott.
But really? You’re going to give up animal-style fries because In-N-Out made a political contribution to the “other” party?
How dare they.
Never mind that In-N-Out also supports pro-business Democrats. The boycotters are so blinded by their hatred of Trump And All Others Who Dare Disagree that they are blinded to the deliciousness of a wholesome regional burger chain that has developed an almost cult-like following. (Point of fact: I don’t eat at In-N-Out much, but only because I’m trying to steer clear of fast food. That’s not political.)
And on the other side, the conservative boycotters are so blinded by their fury over Kaepernick taking a knee that they are willing to forgo comfy athletic footwear and stylish golf shirts.
Heck. Many of them have even stopped watching the NFL — not because the game is unwatchable (I do enjoy the college game more these days) but because they’re protesting against the Kaepernick-inspired protesters.
Really? You’re giving up on the nation’s most popular professional sport because a few guys took a knee during the national anthem? Are we that sensitive? Do we consider the republic that fragile?
Ugh. We’ve lost our ability to disagree agreeably. We’ve lost the recognition that there can be differing political opinions and perspectives without one side or the other being “evil.”
Many blame President Trump. And, while he owns a hefty serving of the blame for the degradation of our national conversation, he hasn’t acted alone. He’s still not acting alone.
Further, not every Republican shares Trump’s negative qualities. It’s possible for a Republican to agree with Trump’s approaches to things like the economy and the U.S. relationship with NATO, while still recognizing that the man, as far as being a human being goes, leaves a whole helluva lot to be desired.
It’s also unfair to paint everyone who registers Republican as a racist, a homophobe, a xenophobe and whatever other kind of phobe they’re using as a scarlet letter this week.
Other side of the coin: It pains me to see reasonable-minded conservatives suffer guilt by association with the most despicable elements of the far right. It turns my stomach when I see far-right racists staging white nationalist protests, or when I hear the far right use phrases like “libtards,” as if anyone who is on the liberal side of the spectrum is incapable of rational thought.
I’ll admit, some of my most liberal friends do seem a little less tolerant of opposing views than they used to be. There’s a lot of anger and name-calling, and some of them — in fairness, not all of them — seem to only advocate free speech when the speaker agrees with them.
Regardless, liberals in general are not “evil” or incapable of rational thought any more or less than those on the conservative side of the fence.
Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time before the next boycott bombshell hits — is it coming from the right or the left? — and we’ll find out which business will have its head posted on a stick after Nike, the NFL and In-N-Out.
By the end of this week, it had been pointed out to California Democratic Party leadership that In-N-Out has also contributed to organizations supporting Democrats, and the “boycott” was called off.
Still, I’m thinking there’s gotta be a boycott hangover, as the most hard-core boycotters stick to their guns. (Well, they’re anti-gun, but you know what I mean.)
Maybe the drive-through lines are shorter now. Maybe this weekend, after I catch an NFL game on the tube, I’ll head on out to the nearest Nike outlet store — I bet they’re having a helluva sale — and I’ll stop to treat myself to a Double-Double on the way home.
Animal style, of course.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @TimWhyte.