Twitter’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Lochte exposes a double standard in sports

Source: AP
Source: AP

Sports fans are calling bad behavior on two high profile athletes: U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But whereas Lochte has enjoyed leniency for lying to Brazilian police during the 2016 Rio Olympics, the latter is getting dragged for refusing to stand for the national anthem during Friday night's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

The differences in response highlight a double standard in the way fans treat black and white athletes. 

Kaepernick had his reasons for remaining in his seat — namely, difficulty supporting a country that doesn't support all its citizens equally. 

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," the quarterback told NFL Media. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Some 49ers fans, infuriated at Kaepernick for "insulting" the national anthem, are taking extreme measures — a petition for the football team to fire him is currently making the rounds on Twitter (albeit without much success), and a video of a former fan burning the quarterback's jersey while the national anthem plays has gone viral. Most of the criticism comes from white people.

Lochte, meanwhile, has received little more than a scolding for his shenanigans in Rio. The gold medal-winner initially claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint while out partying late at night with his teammates, but his lie slowly unspooled. What actually happened was, the trio of Olympians drunkenly peed on and otherwise trashed a gas station. 

His two teammates landed in jail while Lochte retreated to the U.S. Many of his sponsors have dropped him, and he's since signed on for Season 23 of Dancing With the Stars. That may be personally embarrassing for him, but his actions are embarrassing for his entire country. And yet, even Rio Olympics spokesperson Mario Andrada urged, "Let's give these kids a break." 

Lochte, 32, is not a kid; he does enjoy white male privilege, as many on Twitter were quick to point out

Sports fans now have treatment of Kaepernick as evidence of a double standard. The quarterback gets skewered for his lack of "good manners" in expressing defensible personal beliefs, whereas Lochte gets a pass for peeing all over a gas station because he was intoxicated. 

That Lochte gets to use liquor as a shield is not necessarily surprising — drunkenness is recognized as a legitimate defense for white men in a number of sticky scenarios —  but it is disappointing, disrespectful and, dare we say, a national embarrassment?

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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