NJ State Police union: Kaepernick? Tillman was real hero
The union representing New Jersey State Police and Nike have very different ideas about what makes a hero.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – the de facto face of the "take a knee" movement within the NFL — has a new deal with athletic clothing and footwear maker Nike. Kaepernick's attorney, Mark Geragos, made the announcement on Twitter, calling the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback an "All American Icon."
Kaepernick this weekend also posted a Nike ad featuring his face and wrote: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt." Nike will feature Kaepernick on several platforms, including billboards, television commercials and online ads. Nike also will create an apparel line for Kaepernick and contribute to his Know Your Rights charity. The deal puts Kaepernick in the top bracket of NFL players with Nike.
But the New Jersey State Police PBA Tuesday morning offered its definition of heroism and sacrifice, referencing Patrick Daniel Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals safety who left sports behind to enlist in the U.S. Army following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In April of 2004, he was reported to have been killed by enemy combatants in Afghanistan, though he was later revealed to have been killed by friendly fire.
Last week, Kaepernick scored a legal victory in his grievance against the NFL and its 32 teams when an arbitrator denied the league's request to throw out the quarterback's claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests of social injustice. Kaepernick contends the owners violated their collective bargaining agreement with players by conspiring to keep him off teams. His case hinges on whether owners worked together rather than decided individually to not sign Kaepernick.
"Different players have different ideas (about taking a knee), but Kaepernick has made no bones about it that it’s about police brutality and his perception. He’s very specific about his beliefs and that’s why he tweeted that," union president Pat Colligan told New Jersey 101.5. “He has the right to take a knee and we have the right to say that we don’t agree with it. That is the great thing about our country.
“I will never discount his ability to do what he wants to do. He’s standing up for what he perceives to be an injustice and we’re standing up for what we believe is not the correct way to go about it.”
The PBA's comparison drew praise from several followers of the PBA's Twitter account, including New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea:
The PBA was far from the first to draw the Kaepernick-Tillman comparison — several Twitter users shared images of Tillman with the "sacrificing everything" quote over the last few days, as they did last year, when President Donald Trump jumped into the debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
But last year, widow Marie Tillman said in a statement her husband's service "should never be politicized in a way that divides us."
"As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," she wrote at the time. "It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day."
She said at the time she hoped Trump would read her statement, made after Trump retweeted an image of Tillman to bolster his argument football players should stand for the anthem.
An ex-Army ranger who served with Tillman — and who became a self-described "war resistor" — also said last year he believed Tillman would have supported Kaepernick in his protests.
"There were two people that stood by me that entire six months. It was Pat Tillman and his brother, Kevin. They respected people who stood up for what they believe in. I think they would have a lot more in common with people like Michael Bennett and Colin Kaepernick than they do the people who stand on the sidelines and jeer and try to repress their dissent," Rory Fanning said at the time.
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