Public Unions

Santa Clara Police Threaten to 'Boycott' Working at 49ers Games Over Colin Kaepernick


Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

The police union in Santa Clara, Calif., where the NFL's San Francisco 49ers play, says police officers may decide not to work at Levi's, the 49ers' stadium, if the 49ers organization doesn't take "corrective action" against Colin Kaepernick for critical comments he made about police officers while explaining why he'd decided to sit through the national anthem, as the local NBC affiliate, which obtained a copy of the police union's letter to the 49ers, reports.

In the letter (the NBC copy of the letter does not include who signed it), the union argues that Kaepernick's statements (the union calls them actions) "threatened our harmonious relationship" with the 49ers organization. Yet as public employees, the police are supposed to be public servants, not equal partners with the communities they are paid to protect. Threatening not to perform your duties because of critical comments goes beyond most reasonable people's definitions of a "boycott."

The union went further, claiming it had to act because it was responsible to create an environment "free of harassing behavior." The idea that critical comments amount to harassment ought to be a ridiculous one on its face, except that elements of the left have been pushing the idea that words can be harassment and even violence. The appropriation of such thinking should by no means be surprising to any thinking person. Police officers have similarly glommed on to the idea of hate crimes, arguing, with some success, to be protected by hate crime statutes. The original advocates of hate crime laws insist that was not the purpose of the legislation, but critics have long warned that such laws will inevitably be used by those in positions of power to protect themselves.

The union argues that Kaepernick made "inflammatory statements" while working for the 49ers, and therefore that the 49ers need to do something about it. Police unions, of course, rarely apply this kind of thinking on their own. Across the country, police unions have protected cops who have said awful things, and more, cops who have done all kinds of inappropriate things, up to and including the use of excessive and deadly force. It shouldn't be surprising. Despite the propaganda, public unions' primary aim is to protect their employees, not to improve the services they represent. In that context, it's hard to blame the police unions for the tone-deaf things they have done in the wake of police violence becoming a national issue.

For years, unions have been identified as one of the problems contributing to police violence. Critics of public unions have been warning about the power imbalance created by extending the privilege to public employees to collectively bargain with the government. The time to push for police union reforms came long ago. Those, especially on the left but also on the right (Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin who helped establish the first nominally independent state agency to investigate police officers, specifically exempted police unions from his broader public union reforms) who claim to be concerned about police violence but do nothing to bring attention to or otherwise work toward necessary police union reforms, ought to read the Santa Clara police union letter carefully and understand that such an attitude is not an aberration but the inevitable product of permitting those who exclusively carry guns for local governments to also unionize against them.