The executive director of one of the largest police organizations in the country blasted Colin Kaepernick and the NFL on Thursday after learning that during training camp practices in August, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback wore socks that bear the image of cartoon pigs wearing police hats.
“It’s just ridiculous that the same league that prohibits the Dallas (Cowboys) football club from honoring the slain officers in their community with their uniforms stands silent when Kaepernick is dishonoring police officers with what he’s wearing on the field," Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations (a coalition of police unions and associations from across the country), told USA TODAY Sports.
(The Cowboys’ plan to use a helmet decal as a tribute to the five police officers killed in July's sniper attack was denied by the NFL, according to a published report.)
“I think the league is in a downward spiral regarding their obligations to the public under (Commissioner) Roger Goodell," added Johnson, "and this is just another example of that."
The NFL chose not to provide an official response until the league office had consulted the 49ers, who play the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night in their final preseason game.
However Kaepernick posted an explanation on Instagram later Thursday. It read: "I wore those socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust. I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before those socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately."
Kaepernick, whose refusal to stand for the national anthem has sparked heated debate across the country, has said his act of protest stems in part from police brutality. But his practice socks, which he'd worn as early as Aug. 10, had gone largely unnoticed until now.
Johnson, whose organization represents more than 240,000 active law enforcement officers, said Kaepernick’s decision to wear the socks is not only "disrespectful" but also ignorant.
“It doesn’t seem like he’s thought through or bothered to educate himself about the way (law enforcement officers) are out there trying to do a very difficult job, and the vast majority of the time get the job done right," Johnson said.
Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem also drew Johnson’s ire, as did the NFL for not taking a public stance against singer Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show in February. Her performance was widely viewed as a tribute to the Black Panthers and to St. Louis Rams players who used the “hands up, don’t shoot" pose before a game in 2014 after the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo.
“I expect more from the NFL," Johnson said. “The NFL has exhibited — it’s not just tone deafness, it seems to be an act of dislike of police, frankly."