Colin Kaepernick is right about one thing—the NFL’s new social justice messaging campaign is best described as “propaganda.” Kaepernick’s dissatisfaction with the league’s explicitly pro-Kaepernick efforts, however, should be a major lesson for other woke capitalists. Absolutely nothing short of dismantling the capitalist system will satisfy their detractors.
Corporations can go to great lengths to mollify critics, but those critics will never be pleased because their worldview is ultimately rooted in radical anti-capitalism. Mark Cuban, for instance, should recognize that Kaepernick and the leaders of Black Lives Matter do not see him or Roger Goodell as allies, no matter how pure their motivations, substantive their correctives, or big their checks may be.
Cuban is an instructive case study. The billionaire’s heart seems to genuinely be in the right place. He wants to stop racism. He believes Kaepernick is a net asset to that goal. Thus he defends the use of sports broadcasts to address inequality, as Ben Domenech noted earlier this week (this goes for Jack Dorsey too).
But activists who demand the NFL and NBA use their platforms to combat racism will never be supportive of anti-racist efforts from capitalist institutions. Those who are don’t fully grasp the essential role anti-capitalism plays in their radical worldview. As Ibram X. Kendi’s bestselling work helpfully demonstrates, today’s social justice movement is openly and fundamentally anti-capitalist because it believes capitalism is fundamentally racist.
This includes Cuban, and he should understand that. The activists like Kaepernick to whom he lends support and credibility will believe he is personally perpetuating racism until he actively works to deconstruct the capitalist system. Corporations that embrace the contemporary social justice movement are largely co-opting anti-capitalist causes to perpetuate the capitalist system (at least they think they are), and activists who demand and cheer capitalist cooperation are doing the same.
Kaepernick, a man who wears Fidel Castro on his T-shirt, at least understands this. Most of his fellow radicals in the movement understand this as well. Their outside allies, many of whom are well-intentioned, do not deeply understand the cause with which they align themselves.
Pro sports and other corporate entities have the right to use their platforms to address “social justice.” But if they do so with the expectation that it will satisfy their radical critics, they should know better. Nothing short of anti-capitalism is deemed acceptable or even anti-racist by today’s social justice movement.
This is also the cause to which they are contributing when they pour millions of dollars into allied organizations like Black Lives Matter. Corporatists are donating to people whose stated mission is predicated on the destruction of those donors’ livelihoods.
This is difficult for corporatists to recognize because people like Kaepernick and Kendi are treated glowingly by the media, which itself is increasingly under the control of radical cultural leftists, many of whom fail to recognize the anti-capitalist roots of the movement. If, however, corporatists believe in the value of their own work, they are not allies of the contemporary social justice movement and they should have no interest in boosting it.
Despite friendly media treatment, Kaepernick and his peers remain on the fringe for now. The clamor for corporate action, demanded by radicals and witlessly fueled by others, does not necessitate reflexive, pandering C-suite responses—for either business or societal reasons. Social media firestorms fade faster and represent far fewer consumers than companies realize.
Corporations, of course, should actively evaluate their impact on society. But they should also evaluate the actual impact of whatever watered-down nods to cultural leftism their consultants concoct. If satisfying activists like Kaepernick is the goal, slapping “End Racism” on NFL playing fields won’t prevent a public relations headache. It won’t do much to actually end racism either.