When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem earlier this season, he kicked off an entire national discussion on police brutality, the treatment of African-Americans, and the rights of Americans to protest their own national anthem. But when it came time for Kaepernick to exercise his right as an American to participate in the governing process, he declined to do so.
Reporter: Have you voted?
Colin Kaepernick: "No."
Reporter: Are you going to vote?
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) November 8, 2016
Kaepernick told reporters on Tuesday that he didn’t vote. That in itself is not a surprise, given the fact that he criticized both President-elect Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as equally unfit for the office of president. But it’s a disquieting message to send for someone who’s clearly positioned himself as a civil rights role model.
Kaepernick has long positioned himself in opposition to both major-party candidates. “It was embarrassing to watch that these are our two candidates,” he said in September after one debate. “Both are proven liars, and it almost seems like they’re trying to debate who’s less racist … And at this point you have to pick the lesser of two evils. But in the end, it’s still evil.”
We can debate whether or not votes for third-party candidates or joke votes for Harambe had an impact on the election, but the simple fact is that millions of voters decline to vote each election for reasons similar to Kaepernick’s. That could have been enough to swing the election to Clinton’s side, or enough to give Trump both an electoral college and popular vote victory. More to the point, individual votes can have a dramatic impact on down-ballot elections, from congresspeople to statewide initiatives to local officeholders. Declining to vote has a far more significant proportional impact on those than the presidential race.
Certainly, Kaepernick isn’t to blame for Trump’s victory any more than he’d be to blame for Clinton’s. But his decision not to vote in a historic election is a curious one, and based on the public profile he’s sought to create for himself, well worthy of second-guessing.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.