Outside the Box: Does outrage over job-costing protest by the Google programmer but not Colin Kaepernick — or vice versa — make you a hypocrite?

Water cooler talk has never been hotter.

One day, an office colleague tells you software engineer James Damore didn’t deserve to be fired from GoogleGOOGL, -0.68% for circulating an internal memo protesting the company’s diversity efforts. The next day, the same colleague insists that quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn’t deserve to be hired by any NFL team for taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem last season to protest perceived racial injustice.

You ask yourself: “Can my colleague maintain both positions and still be an ethical person?” The answer is yes. But ask: “Isn’t the ethical (as distinct from legal) right to protest without career-ending consequences the same in both cases?” The answer also is yes — but only to a point.

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