The strength of convictions in negotiations

In the 49ers’ final 2016 preseason game on September 1, 2016, Kaepernick kneeled during the U.S. national anthem rather than sit as he did in their previous games. He explained his decision to switch was an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting.  Following that, Colin decided to opt out of his contract. In other words, he walked away from about $14.5 million for what he believed in. You, like I, know people who would change their beliefs for much less than that.

Despite not being signed by anyone, Kaepernick did not change his mind. Better, he doubled down. He pledged to give $1million “to organizations working in oppressed communities”.  But suddenly the most amazing thing happened.  People started supporting him. First, it was other Black players, members of the clergy, celebrities, etc… the people most likely to sympathize.

Then came the turning point. The president of the United States of America called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a b*tch”.  Everybody who wanted to support Kaepernick but were uncertain suddenly became sure it was the right thing to do.  But if you ask me, the critical part was President Trump telling the NFL team owners what they should do e.g. “get rid of players like that”.  Let’s put things in context, NFL team owners are mostly billionaire white men.  And they surely do not like to be told what to do like a CNN analyst said.

What can Kaepernick’s situation teach us about negotiations?

  • Play big.  You must be prepared to lose a great deal, to win a great deal. Of course, go in your eyes open and understand the consequences.  Considering how woke and conscious Kaepernick is, I bet he did not waste his NFL millions on stupid stuff and he is financially safe.
  • Be resilient.  Once your strategy is set, do not change its course.  There will be lots of temptations to change, but you are likely to lose more by doing so.
  • Force the mistake.  I wrote it before in my post about Steph Curry, patience pays off.  In this case, Kaepernick let his opponents make the wrong move. Their emotions took over.  That’s when the President called him “a son of a b*tch”.
  • Create your own power.  There is power in numbers. Sometimes, it is better to let other people fight on your behalf.
  • It is not personal.  If Kaepernick had made this about himself, it would be over by now.  Because it was about something much bigger than him, it created space for people to join and strengthen his mission.

This is more than a negotiation for Kaepernick.  Yet, he offers many learnings and highlights the benefits of defending your beliefs.

Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash