San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepaernick chose not to stand during the national anthem during a preseason game today.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche. “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.”

So far, this seems to have stirred a great debate over whether players have the right to sit during the national anthem (according to the NFL, they do have that right), but it has not caused very many people to talk about the reason he chose to sit.

As long as the focus remains on Kaepaernick and not on the issue he’s trying to highlight, I guess his protest will be a failure.

Personally, I think he’s bound to get wounded by this. For one thing, when does he decide that he can end this protest? It’s not like he’s going to get some kind of victory out of it that will provide an excuse to stand for the national anthem again.

More specifically to his career, he’s a quarterback who’s had some success in the past, but he’s not been playing well of late, and he’s really fighting for his football career right now. He isn’t a guy who has a guaranteed place in the league, so this could really finish him off if management has to make a tough call.

That makes his move more courageous, but also a little reckless as far as his future is concerned.

But he knows all this and he’s doing it anyway. So, it might be nice if people focused a little more on what he said and a little less on his right to say it.

On a related note, I took a long drive today on backroads through several counties of rural and exurban Pennsylvania. I was in Chester, Montgomery, Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, and Northampton counties. I kept an eye out for any political signs on cars or lawns or anywhere else to see if I could discover any evidence to back up the August 22nd story in the New York Post by Salena Zito that claimed that:

If you drive anywhere in Pennsylvania, from the turnpike to the old US routes to the dirt roads connecting small towns like Hooversville with “bigger” small towns like Somerset, you might conclude that Donald Trump is ahead in this state by double digits.

Large signs, small signs, homemade signs, signs that wrap around barns, signs that go from one end of a fence to another dot the landscape with such frequency that, if you were playing the old-fashioned road-trip game of counting cows, you would hit 100 in just one small town like this one.

In Ruffsdale, I am pretty sure I saw more than 100 Trump signs.

Now, Ruffs Dale (the proper spelling of the town) and Somerset and Hooversville are in the mountainous western part of the state, and I can’t tell you what it’s like out there, but in the eastern part of the state (which qualifies as “anywhere in Pennsylvania”), I only encountered one Trump lawn sign on a trip from Exton to Bethlehem and no bumper stickers. That sign was on the property of a pretty fancy looking farm near Quakertown with numerous outbuildings.

On the way back, I took a different route and I saw three yard signs on modestly nice properties. One was near Delphi, north of Schwenksville, I remember, and another was near Spinnerstown not far from the northern spur of the Blue Route. Again, no bumper stickers on any cars and no “homemade signs, signs that wrap around barns, signs that go from one end of a fence to another.”

Of the four total signs I saw in a nearly 100 mile round-trip through the backroads of Pennsylvania, three were for Trump and one was for Trump/Pence. There were no Hillary signs or bumper stickers at all.

What there were, however, were well more than a dozen signs that said “I support our police,” or some variation on that. Not all the signs were the same. What I suspect is that more than one local police department along my route is giving out these signs to people who answer their solicitations to donate.

If I didn’t know that an election was occurring in a couple of months, my trip would not have tipped me off, but I would have wondered why there was so much energy going into expressing support for law enforcement.

Now, the areas I was traveling along are Republican areas. Some of these counties are competitive but the Democratic votes come mainly from college towns and cities, which aside from skips through Collegeville and Bethlehem, were not the places I was visiting.

Eight years ago, these areas were already dotted with McCain signs long before Labor Day. I remember this, because I recall being several notches more offended when they started to get replaced by McCain/Palin signs after she was announced as his running mate on August 29th, 2008.

I don’t have anything in my memory banks from four years ago that helps identify exactly when the Romney and Romney/Ryan signs went up, but the pattern of the first being replaced by the second definitely repeated itself.

What I’m saying is that there were way more signs four and eight years ago at this time in these Republican areas.

However, there were also a lot of Obama signs four and eight years ago, and plenty of Clinton signs, too, in the primaries. They have not been in evidence this time around.

So, it’s not just that no one is visually supporting Trump. People seem unwilling to advertise their support for anyone right now, including even the previously ubiquitous Ron Paul stickers and signs.

But quite a few people are proudly supporting the police.

Meanwhile, an NFL quarterback is refusing to stand for the national anthem because he’s tired of the police unjustly shooting and killing black people and then getting paid leave instead of
any accountability.

I imagine that isn’t going to play well along the route I traveled today.

I’m not a believer that political lawn signs are a good barometer of how people will vote, but the utter lack of them seems to indicate something is different about this election season. For a country so plainly polarized, it’s weird not to see more people taking a stand.

So, that’s my dispatch from red country in the East. Maybe out in the West there is some kind of Trumpmania, but that’s an utter myth here.

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