Brian Billick coached in the NFL for the better part of two decades and won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, so he’s been around the football-coaching block.
And in no way does he envy Chip Kelly, who must navigate Colin Kaepernick’s social activism without alienating those who agree or disagree with the 28-year-old quarterback.
“This is a tough one,” NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Because on the one hand, you obviously have to respect the individual attitudes – and the players have rights. If they want to use their celebrity to champion a particular cause or idea, you have to embrace that. You have to support that. But by the same token, he’s got to sit down with Colin Kaepernick and say, ‘Look, you’ve got to respect the team process. You’ve kind of usurped the rights of the team by doing this arbitrarily on your own. You didn’t consult with us. You didn’t consult with the other team members. You have an avenue – and we will support you in that – to put out there whatever you want. But as a team, we’ve collectively decided as a league, as a team, as an organization, to honor America, honor our flag, honor everything it has to do with the national anthem. You have to respect that responsibility and we’ll find another avenue and we’ll support you 100 percent in expressing whatever views you want to.’ I don’t fault Colin Kaepernick for having strong views, but I fault him for the avenue that he chose to do it – because he basically did not live up to his responsibility as a team member. That’s what I would try to communicate with him.”
Thanks to social media, professional athletes have an enormous platform quite literally at their fingertips. If an athlete feels strongly enough about something, isn’t it his or her responsibility to take advantage of that platform to advance a cause?
“Sure, absolutely,” Billick said. “But you’ve got to use it in the right forum, and I would advocate that you’re losing the message a little bit. There are those that are saying, ‘Well, we wouldn’t be talking about if he weren’t doing it in this manner.’ I would disagree with that respectfully because we’re not talking about the issue; we’re talking about should he do it or not? Is this the right forum for it or not? And obviously a lot of people are very passionate on it either way. We’re not talking about the issue that he supposedly wants us to be talking about. We’re talking about the process, and I think it’s bringing on a negative connotation that is an unintended consequence. I don’t think he is helping his cause, his purpose, by doing it the way he’s doing it. Ultimately, I think he will hurt it.”
Billick did say, however, that Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee among his teammates during the national anthem Thursday night in San Diego – as opposed to simply sitting on the bench alone – was a step in the right direction.
“I don’t know how this is going to play out during the entire season, and obviously people will wear out on it,” Billick said. “That’s not to put our head in the sand and say we’re ignoring the issue or we don’t want to talk about the issue. There’s a time to do that, and I don’t think this is a particular time.”
Billick, for example, loved that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony stood together at the ESPY’s and spoke out against gun violence.
“That’s great. That’s fabulous. That’s a perfect forum for that to do that,” Billick said. “Even from a team forum, if you remember the Clippers when they were going through he ownership issues, they collectively as a team decided to make a statement, and that’s okay because that was collective. They had talked amongst themselves and they weren’t violating their other teammates’ perspective. That’s the concern I have for Colin Kaepernick. He’s not taking into account the other perspectives of his teammates, and there might be a better way to do this.”