Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers
On the second and last Madison BookBeat show during the fall pledge drive, Stu Levitan. welcomes a long-time friend of community radio and other alternative media, Dave Zirin. His new book The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World was just published by our friends at The New Press, and brought him to a Madison book event at the Cap Times Idea Fest earlier this month.
You probably know about Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, he led the Niners to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994 – a playoff run that you might recall included a record-setting performance against the Green Bay Packers. The next year, his first full season as a starter, the 49ers almost made it back to the big game, narrowly losing the NFC championship game to the Seattle Seahawks, led by former Badger Russell Wilson. 2014 and 2015 weren’t that hot for either Kap or the Niners, and after several coaching changes, by 2016 he was back to being the backup.
In the 49ers’ third preseason game in august 2016, again against the Packers, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, rather than stand. It was a low-key, personal protest against systemin racism and police literally getting away with murder. When a reporter for the NFL Network, Sam Wyche, asked him why, Kaepernick gave a direct answer: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” he said. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” And his comments were prophetic: “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
There was a fair amount of outrage, but nothing that would compare to what happened after Kaepernick and former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer discussed the matter and concluded that taking a knee rather than sitting on the bench would be a more powerful and more respectful protest.
Of such miscalculations is history made.
Kaepernick regained his status as the starting QB, and had an excellent season – 16 touchdowns against just four interceptions, and a league-leading 6.8 yards per carry. But he also knelt before every game, and was vilified from the White House to the outhouse. He became a free agent, but no other team would sign him. He has not played professional football since.
But what of other athletes, not just fellow professionals, but athletes in high school and college, athletes who felt as he did about police brutality and systemic racism, athletes whom he inspired and gave language to, athletes who also knelt, or raised their fists, in the years 2016 to 2018. How did they come to take that action, and what reaction did they face when they did? It is their stories, not Colin Kaepernick’s, which Dave Zirin tells in this powerful and important new book.
It is a book Dave Zirin is supremely qualified to write. As sports editor for The Nation, columnist for the Progressive, host of the Edge of Sports podcast, and past winner of the NY Press Club Award for Sports Journalism, he is one of the foremost analysts of the role of sports in society. Which is why Named one of UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World.” The Kaepernick Effect is his eleventh book since 2005, when What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States was published by Haymarket Books, which has also published Things That Make White People Uncomfortable¸ written with former NFL star Michael Bennet, Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports, with a forward by Chuck D; and The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, written with that great athlete and social activist, and other books. Among his earlier books from the New Press, A People’s History of Sports In The United States, part of Howard Zinn’s People’s History Series. ; Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down, and Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love. His website is davezirin.com, his twitter handle @edgeofsports.
It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Dave Zirin