Friday, October 6, 2017

Gerard Piqué is no Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick is an American football player that put at risk his professional career to express his solidarity with African Americans who had been victims of police brutality. He lost his contract and he had to endure the hate of radical nationalists, including the current president of the USA, Donald Trump.  Some recent comments by the first authority of the country have pushed other American football players to join the protest. According to Wikipedia "Before a preseason game in 2016, Kaepernick sat down, as opposed to the tradition of standing, during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner". During a post-game interview, he explained his position stating, "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", referencing a series of events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and adding that he would continue to protest until he feels like "[the American flag] represents what it's supposed to represent". In the 49ers' final 2016 preseason game on September 1, 2016, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the U.S. national anthem rather than sit as he did in their previous games. He explained his decision to switch was an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting during the anthem after having a conversation with former NFL player and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer. After the September 2016 police shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, Kaepernick commented publicly on the shootings saying, "this is a perfect example of what this is about."
This video explains how much he cares about the victims of police brutality in the US, in some cases killed by the actions of abusive agents.  I discussed recently with my students at the Study Abroad program at UAB the parallelisms between American football players taking a political position and some sports stars in Catalonia also taking a position in the independence debate, like soccer player Gerard Piqué or manager Pep Guardiola. Last Sunday Piqué echoed Kaepernick by complaining about the brutality of Spanish police in trying to prevent some voters from participating in an illegal referendum called by the Catalan regional government. There is little doubt that the Spanish police used excess brutality, but only one person suffered a major injury (a rubber bullet in the eye). I do not need to hide that I have much more sympathy for the cause of Mr. Kaepernick than for the cause of Mr. Piqué, which is also the cause of many upper and middle class people of the community where I live, but very far away from the sympathies of most poor and working class citizens. It is nice that Piqué, a multimillionaire descendant of a family of the Catalan bourgeoisie (his grandfather sat in FC Barcelona's board of directors) now for the first time cares about police brutality. Some years ago a Catalan woman lost an eye because of a rubber bullet of the Catalan police and he didn't say anything as far as I can remember. Piqué has never been seen expressing his solidarity with poor people for the dramatic budget cuts of the recent years (decided both by Catalan and Spanish governments), nor for the loss of money for the welfare state derived from the tax fraud of several of his colleagues and team mates. So far, he has not put at risk his career at all (like his colleague Arda Turan, who supported Erdogan in his last referendum to introduce autocratic elements in Turkey), nor he has started any controversy with the officials at his club. He is in the celebrity market, his partner is the Colombian singer Shakira, and he is most probably benefiting from his increased celebrity as a result of the controversy. Although he says he would understand that the Spanish national team stops calling him, he has not taken the step of refusing to go when called by the national coach, as the 2018 World Cup in Russia is approaching. I am sure that Vladimir Putin will welcome him with open arms.

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