Commentary: Nah, it couldn’t be that

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – Thank goodness race isn’t the issue.

Perhaps the fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and major league baseball’s all-time hits leaders Pete Rose have wandered into the national spotlight at the same time is further proof that history is a great teacher.

John Krull, publisher,

Kaepernick is struggling to find a spot on an NFL roster as the start of the football season approaches. Rose has been accused of having sex decades ago with at least one underage girl.

Both men have been the subject of controversy.

Kaepernick became a lightning rod last year when he refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem. He did so to protest the way people of color are treated in this country. He said the issue was bigger than football and that he felt a moral duty to act as he did.

The accusations of statutory rape were but the latest reports of tawdry and criminal behavior to dog Rose. He is under a lifetime ban from baseball – the game he says he loves more than life itself – because he bet on games, even those in which he managed and played. He also has served time in prison for tax evasion after he hid income from the sale of sports memorabilia.

Kaepernick’s critics scream loudly that his offense is so heinous that he shouldn’t be allowed to play football ever again.

Rose, on the other hand, has been the king of second chances. Many of the same people who condemn Kaepernick have protested through the years that Rose has been treated unfairly – that baseball should forgive and forget and welcome him not just back into the game, but into the Hall of Fame.

Thank goodness race isn’t the issue.

When Kaepernick first began his protest, he sat down while the national anthem played. After talking with a veteran, he started kneeling instead. He wanted to show respect for those who have served while still making his point. He has endured the criticism accompanying his protest – which has included death threats – with quiet stoicism.

Rose has lied repeatedly about his actions, even under oath at times. He’s told the truth about betting on baseball only when he has no other option or when he stands to make money by doing so. He lied to his teammates, the fans, his teams’ owners, a series of baseball commissioners – perhaps driving one to an early death in the process – and to investigators.

Thank goodness race isn’t the issue.

The people who want to drive Kaepernick out of football insist they aren’t bigots. They say the issue is one of respect, of dignity, of honor. They say the playing of the national anthem is a celebration of freedom.

And the best way to pay tribute to that freedom is to ostracize someone who chooses to exercise that freedom.

Rose continues to insist that he’s a victim, that people are being mean and unfair to him. Over the past 30 years, he’s fought a series of savage battles to evade responsibility for his actions. When he hasn’t been able to duck the consequences of his transgressions, he’s tried to shift the blame to others.

Kaepernick, on the other hand, has said that, should his protest cost him his football career, so be it. He’s said he feels a moral obligation to prod his country to live up to its principles and to value the lives of all its citizens. That obligation, he says, is, again, bigger than football.

Pete Rose, again and again, gets the benefit of the doubt and a seemingly endless series of second chances, despite breaking the law and breaking faith, over and over, with people who trusted him.

Colin Kaepernick gets blackballed for standing tall and telling the truth as he sees it.

Pete Rose, of course, is white.

Colin Kaepernick … isn’t.

Thank goodness race isn’t the issue.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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