Black Lives Matter protesters target NFL headquarters in solidarity with Kaepernick
On Wednesday, just weeks away from the start of the NFL season, a rally in support of Kaepernick was held outside of NFL headquarters in the New York City borough of Manhattan. A smaller solidarity rally was also held in Los Angeles.
The Color of Change and Justice League NYC were a few of the groups in attendance. Hundreds of supporters showed up in support of Kaepernick and started chanting, “I’m with Kap.”
Last year, Kaepernick prompted a league-wide dialogue after kneeling during the national anthem before a game. He refused to stand, so that he could call attention to the issue of police brutality, specifically towards people of color in the US, he said at the time.
Kaepernick continued the silent symbolic protest and eventually other NFL players followed suit, speaking out against minority-based police brutality.
Before their preseason game against the New York Giants on Monday night, 12 players for the Cleveland Browns took a knee during the national anthem. It was also the first instance of a white player joining in the act to express solidarity with Kaepernick.
In March, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers. Now, as NFL teams prepare for their September 7 opening night, Kaepernick can’t get any organization to sign him.
Linda Sarsour, one of the main organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, was one of the featured speakers at the rally.
“It takes real courage to go after the real white supremacists, the ones sitting in the boardroom,” she said. “We stand with Kaepernick.”
Baltimore pastor Jamal Bryant told the crowd, “We’re not here for our health. We’re here because this is a state of emergency for our community.”
“We’re not trying to make America great again, were trying to make America great for the very first time,” Bryant added.
Analysts, general managers and even the commissioner of the NFL have weighed in on Kaepernick’s troubles finding a team to sign him.
When asked by SiriusXM if the quarterback was being blackballed from the league, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said, “Without question,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had a different opinion on Kaepernick’s situation and defended the league against the current accusations.
“Well, my personal thoughts are... I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don't live in a perfect society. We live in an imperfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL,” according to AJC. “I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it's important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”
The general manager of the 49ers, John Lynch, stated that Kaepernick would have been cut from the team if he hadn’t opted out, due to conflicts with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
“We both sat down and under that current construct of his deal, it was a big number. [Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] had a vision for what he wanted to do, and one thing I think Kyle was very clear and I think Colin appreciated, is that Kyle has an idea of how he’d play with Colin Kaepernick,”according to NBC. “But he preferred to run the exact offense that he ran in Atlanta last year that was record-breaking in this league. And if you change it for the quarterback, you change it for everybody on that offense. So he had a great discussion that I think gave Colin clarity, so we moved on.”
“We gave him the option, ‘You can opt out, we can release you, whatever.’ And he chose to opt out, but that was just a formality,” Lynch said.
Critics of the assumption Kaepernick was released by his team because of his politics may point to his statistics during the 2016 football season.
Kaepernick statistically finished 26th out 30 quarterbacks in the league last year, completing only 59.2 percent of his passes, according to the Huffington Post.
The former 49ers quarterback also only finished with a QB rating of 55.2, which was 23rd in the league. It is not clear whether these statistics are coming back to haunt him now that he is looking for a place to play, Huffington Post reported.
Early Wednesday, the NAACP called for a meeting with the NFL on September 7 to discuss Kaepernick’s fate in the league. In a letter written to Roger Goodell, the NAACP’s Interim President, Derrick Johnson, said it is “no sheer coincidence” that Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster yet, according to ABC News.
Last year the NFL’s television viewership dropped 8 percent and there is not a clear answer as to why it happened. The drop was not unprecedented considering it happened during the year of a presidential election, but it still left some wondering if it had anything to do with Kaepernick’s protests. One poll conducted by ESPN showed the ratings drop, was, in fact, due to Kaepernick’s protests.