There has been all sorts of talk about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players engaging in protest regarding issues of equality and justice. We can add one of the most prominent legal voices in the land to the mix.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a book coming out that contains writings from over the course of her career. She has done some interviews about the book, and her thoughts on various topics. She cannot speak on every topic because of the potential for cases to come before her and the Court, but she did comment on Colin Kaepernick and the protests going on.
At the 20:03 mark of this video, Katie Couric asked her about the protests. Ginsburg said they are dumb and disrespectful, but they have the right to engage in such protests. Here is the transcript of that portion of the video (with more thoughts after):
Couric: “How do you feel about San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have basically refused to stand for the National Anthem?”
Ginsburg: “What do I think? I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act. But it’s dangerous to arrest people for conduct that doesn’t jeopardize the health and well-being of other people. It’s a symbol they’re engaged in.”
Couric: “But when it comes to these football players, you may find their actions offensive, but what you’re saying is, it’s within their rights to exercise those actions?”
Ginsburg: “Yes. If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”
The question came up because immediately prior to it, Couric asked RBG about the police shootings and the racial issues that need to be addressed. She talked about the change that was slowly starting to happen, offering up this:
We are changing things. And we can’t wave a magic wand and make it better in one fell swoop. But we start by recognizing there is a problem, and then we try to come up with solutions. I don’t know that it’s worse, it probably isn’t than it was years ago. But now it’s being noticed. And that’s already a promising sign. People are noticing it, they’re recognizing it, it is a problem, and good minds are grappling with how to deal with it, both on the community side, and on the police side.
I am normally a big fan of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I have to disagree with her opinion on this one. I get that people think Kaepernick’s protest is in bad form, but it just seems like she is not trying to view this from the lense of Kaepernick and players protesting the issues.
I see her answer coming from a more academic perspective, while Kaepernick and other athletes of color are seeing this from a, “people are getting killed and we can’t afford to take our time” perspective. That would explain more of RBG’s latter comment and her view on improvements in issues of justice and equality. As smart as she is (much smarter than me and probably most of us!), it all comes across like someone a little out of touch with certain aspects of society.
Seeing as I’m in Washington, DC, maybe I can connect with her and have an actual debate of the topic!