justice ginsburg and colin kaepernick is much ado about nothing

HERE ARE THE HEADLINES as they appear in one form or another in countless newsletters, sites, and blogs in the rightwingnut blogosphere: “Liberal Favorite Ruth Bader Ginsburg Called Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Dumb and Disrespectful.” If this is meant to show some kind of hypocrisy, it does not; in the end, it merely shows that a justice has an opinion about an issue.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The Independent Journal Review (IJR) opened its article on the topic with these words: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a favorite of liberals for her strongly worded statements and opinions, and now she’s taking on a new opponent that might send the tongues of some her fans wagging. In an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo! News, Ginsburg said she finds Colin Kaepernick’s protest ‘dumb and disrespectful.’ “

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a United States Supreme Court Justice appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton in 1993. And yes, she is a prominent and vocal member of the minority in the regular 5-4 decisions handed down by what many historians consider the most biased and conservative Supreme Court in American history.

@RuthBGinsburg's remarks about Kaepernick are in keeping with one who supports the First Amendment. Click To Tweet

Justice Ginsburg takes issue

To IJR’s credit, they followed with Ms Ginsburg’s actual statements after Couric asked Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg what she thought of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others athletes refusing to stand for the anthem, kneeling in protest instead. Justice Ginsburg replied:

If they want to be arrogant and stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive of that.

I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag-burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it.

I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act. It’s dangerous to arrest people for conduct that doesn’t jeopardize the health and well-being of others people. It’s a symbol they’re engaged in.”

Couric asked, “But when it comes to these football players, you may find their actions offensive, but what you’re saying is, it’s within their rights to exercise those actions?” And Justice Ginsburg affirmed:

Yes. If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”

So I’m not sure what the righties think that this all means, as Mrs Ginsburg’s statement of her personal opinion concerning Kaepernick ‘s behavior is just that: a personal opinion.


This painting titled “The Sword” (1896) by Alfred-Pierre Agache is often used to portray Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

I will defend your right to say it

Justice Ginsburg acknowledges that the man has the right to protest in whatever manner he deems fit, and that she finds this particular manner to be dumb.

And arrogant.

Even stupid.

But legal.

Or, as Evelyn Beatrice Hall so famously stated when describing Voltaire’s stance on freedom of speech, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That does sound suspiciously like what one expects of any thinking person living a democracy who respects the rights of others in that democracy.

So the seemingly shocking headlines about a prominent liberal’s actions or words as relayed in the rightwingnut blogosphere is, yet again, much ado about nothing. 1

FEATURED IMAGE: San Francisco 49ers Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before the start of a game.



1   The phrase much ado about nothing is taken from Shakespeare’s play of the same name and as an idiom has come to mean “a furor over something unimportant” and “a lot of trouble or excitement about something that is not important.”