As the NFL regular season approaches, one of the questions on a lot of fans’ minds is not are they ready for some football, but will they boycott it?
Last season, in 2016, former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to sit during the playing and singing of the national anthem during the preseason. His sitting was intended to show solidarity and protest racial injustices, oppression and police brutality against people of color in America. Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” 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.”
At first, Kaepernick was alone in his protest, until it gained national attention on August 26th, 2017, when Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation tweeted a photo of him sitting, which was unrelated. Later that night, the 49ers released a statement to confirm he sat for the anthem. By the NFL regular season opener, Kaepernick slowly, but surely gained support and was joined by several NFL players who began take a knee, locked arms and raised fists, similar to Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, who protested against similar issues at the 1968 Olympics. Other professional, college and high school athletes had joined the protest.People such as female soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Howard University’s Cheerleading team and Garfield High School’s football team and coaching staff located in Seattle, Washington knelt before the flag during the anthem in solidarity.
Though many have stood by or rather sat and knelt with the quarterback, many have disagreed and even misconstrued the message itself. There was no one more whose opinion was more prominent than Tomi Lahren’s, formerly of The Blaze. She stated that he [Kaepernick] was being disrespectful to the members of the military who serve this country. In fact, it was after meeting former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer that the players decided to adjust the protest from sitting to taking a knee to show respect for the military while not losing the focus of the real issues. She also said he was blaming white people for the problems of minority communities, although he did neither of those things. Then, during her final thought segment, she asked what was he doing to make things better. Well Kaepernick decided to put his money where his mouth was and donated the first $1 million of his 2016 salary to various community organizations that focused on race issues.
It is now 2017. Colin Kaepernick is now a free agent. At the end of the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick chose the option to back out the last year of his contract, which would have allowed him to make $12 million, but instead decided to join the free agency market in hopes of making more money or to play on a better team after the 49ers ended 2-14. There were early speculations that the quarterback was possibly being blackballed because, though he finished with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions along with his dynamic skillset, he had yet to be signed. But as the year progresses, with the NFL Draft concluding in April, training camps opening in late July and preseason games being played, Kaepernick has yet to be signed. Though he’s not the player he once was when he played in the Super Bowl four years ago, many feel that owners and general managers are refusing to sign him because of his political stance, not his skills.
With the racial divide becoming wider than ever, as is evident with recent events in Charlottesville, VA, protests for Kaepernick have gone beyond the field and are drawing more to speak out. The latest protest took place on August 23rd, 2017 in Manhattan, where groups, including the Justice League NYC, Color of Change and several hundred Kaepernick supporters, rallied in front of NFL headquarters. Speakers at the rally took the league to task for a lack of racial sensitivity and Kaepernick still not having a team to play for.
So where does that leave the the fans. People throughout social media have called out many of the leagues’ black football players and some have decided they will boycott the NFL by not watching or attending the games. Two Chicago bars, decided not to air NFL games in support of Colin. People are often offended and disgusted when a player who has domestic charges is able to play and is not reprimanded by the league. This begs the questions, when will we put morals over dollars and more importantly, when will we truly confront and resolve the issues that have put the league on knee?
By: Jamal Clarke
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