‘We’re both insulated from many issues. Him because of his celebrity and us because we’re cops. But he still put it all on the line.’
Edwin Raymond and Felicia Whitely don’t even mind the pig socks.
Though each graduated from the police academy and have nearly two decades of experience in the New York Police Department (NYPD) combined, they aren’t mad at San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for sporting footwear that mocked cops.
“Those [socks] symbolize what’s wrong with policing,’’ said Raymond, who became an NYPD sergeant in August. “To refer to a bad doctor as a quack doesn’t mean you’re denouncing medicine or denouncing all physicians. You’re specifically speaking of the ones who aren’t doing what’s right. So those pig socks, to me, basically encapsulate what’s wrong with policing.
“There are issues with policing. We have to acknowledge that, and if that’s his way of expressing it, I have to defend it.’’
Raymond and Whitely are spearheading #OfficersForKaepernick, a hashtag campaign they launched on Sept. 24 with a Twitter photo of five NYPD policemen wearing Kaepernick’s No. 7 jersey. The photo is accompanied by a statement that declares Kaepernick’s stance is not “anti-cop, anti-flag or anti-American’’ and that the officers “stand with Kaepernick for his bravery in asking the United States to live up to what’s professed in the Bill of Rights.’’
Raymond, 31, said the photo and hashtag were partly inspired by #VeteransForKaepernick, which became a trending topic on Twitter in August.
But he also was inspired by meeting Kaepernick back in July, weeks before the San Francisco 49ers quarterback sparked a national discussion on policing and race by refusing to stand for The Star-Spangled Banner.
“We were on the same page in terms of how we see these issues,’’ Raymond said of their encounter.
Who knows, Raymond may have even inspired Kaepernick and his decision to protest. After all, back in July it was Kaepernick who sought out Raymond, not vice versa.
Raymond was being interviewed on Hot 97, a hip-hop station in New York City, by popular radio and TV personality Nessa, who also happens to be Kaepernick’s girlfriend.
Raymond was featured because he is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed by 12 minority police officers against the NYPD. Raymond and the other plaintiffs, all of whom are black or Hispanic, have become known as the “NYPD 12.”
In August 2015, they sued their police department for illegally pushing officers to reach numerical quotas for monthly arrests and court summonses, which would violate a 2010 state ban against quotas. The suit, which also accuses the NYPD of violating the 14th Amendment, is filed on behalf of minority officers throughout the force and claims the quotas are used mainly in black and Latino neighborhoods.
A critical part of the plaintiffs’ case are tapes Raymond made of his supervisors telling him he was not making enough arrests or giving out enough summonses.
Kaepernick had seen and retweeted a clip of the NYPD 12 discussing their lawsuit with Sarah Wallace of NBC New York. Impressed, he threw on a Malcolm X baseball cap and joined Nessa for her interview with Raymond. As Raymond detailed his eight-year experience in the NYPD, Kaepernick listened and learned from outside the booth.
When the 25-minute interview was over, Kaepernick approached Raymond and they spoke for another 30 minutes.
“He asked me if I was scared,’’ Raymond said. “I said, ‘We’re the benefactors of our ancestors. They didn’t focus on the fear, just the work that needed to be done.’ ’’
As one might imagine, Raymond has received pushback from other officers because of the lawsuit. But he also said he’s gotten lots of support from officers within and outside of the NYPD. He said more than 200 officers of all races have told him privately or through mutual friends that they appreciate what he’s doing.
“I’ve gotten more support than you would think,’’ he said. “Guys who are executives, captains and above, have told me, ‘We knew all this stuff was nonsense and nobody’s been willing to do anything about it.’ But there has been hate, also. None of it to my face, just keyboard thugs or things that get back to me. Some smile in my face and call me a rat behind my back.’’
It was much of the same when Raymond, Whitely and the others publicly supported Kaepernick with the photo and statement. Officers who championed Raymond behind closed doors refused to “like’’ or retweet the #OfficersForKaepernick salute.
“Kaepernick is Public Enemy No. 1 with cops,’’ Raymond said. “So among cops, the response has been negative. No death threats, but I’ve received threatening messages in other ways. Anecdotally speaking, from what I’ve seen, most white cops have bought into the perception that he’s anti-American and anti-police.’’
To the NYPD 12, though, Kaepernick is simply anti-racism. When first hearing of Kaepernick’s protest, Whitely, a member of the NYPD since 2006, was beyond excited.
“What he did was monumental,’’ said Whitely, the only woman pictured in the #OfficersForKaepernick photo. “I’m an active police officer and I did not take offense to his [pig] socks or to him not standing for the anthem. I didn’t take offense because he’s not lying. It’s not something he’s making up.’’
Raymond and Whitely believe the fervent and continuous discussion that’s resulted from Kaepernick’s protest speaks to the incomparable impact professional athletes can have. They’d love to see more follow Kaepernick’s lead.
“I wish more celebrities would use their status to bring awareness to these issues,’’ Raymond said. “We’re in an era where something becomes old news in one day. For Kaepernick’s news to remain so prevalent, just weeks away from a monumental, history-making election, is powerful. It just confirms the power of celebrities. Just taking a knee speaks volumes.
“That’s why we took the photo — because we connect to him. We’re both insulated from many issues. Him because of his celebrity and us because we’re cops. But he still put it all on the line. And we put our careers on the line, just like him.’’