For some time, I’ve contemplated how I was going to articulate my thoughts on this rhetoric of protesting the NFL in response to Quarter back, Colin Kaepernick remaining unsigned by any of the 32 NFL teams in this 17-18 football season. I have seen an outpour of backlash, name-calling, and hatred from individuals polarized on both sides as they express their views or stances on why they will or will not protest the NFL. I’ve read through numerous articles trying to gather some history and feedback on the issue before I comment, and would like to provide a few premises on how I’ve reached my personal decision.
Premise # 1 – Kap’s goal was to spark conversations around the country about oppressed African Americans and police brutality.
Kap most certainly accomplished this. In no interview that I’ve found did he ever say by kneeling he was going to fix the problem, however he passionately expressed how the stories affected him and how he was going to take his position to stand with those that may not have a voice. All throughout the 2016-2017 season people were talking about police brutality with their families, friends, co-workers, churches, and communities. Hats off to Kap, this was not an easy feat to accomplish as criticism continued to come at every side. Moreover, I commend the work he was already doing and continues to do in local communities serving those in need.
Premise #2 – Kap was not alone in his protest.
Safety Eric Reid, finally joined Kap after about 4-5 games of kneeling to side with his teammate during the kneeling/sitting during the display of the colors and singing of the National Anthem. It’s extremely important to note that at this point, the protest became bigger than just the QB and would grow to other NFL players, College Players, High School players of many races, teams, and backgrounds. He literally sparked a national outcry for conversation by sitting down and demanding people to have the “hard conversations” as we call them at work.
Premise # 3 – Kap is not a bad football player.
Despite many individuals using this as an excuse as to why he hasn’t been signed. It’s pretty obvious that Kap does not suck. Is he the best in the league? Not by far. However, his skill is something that is still something that could be valuable to many teams if put with the right programs and coaching staff. However, how many of us can think of someone on our job that is extremely talented, but because of how they act, or their energy have decided not to work with someone because it might disrupt the work environment. These are things we deal with every day.
Premise # 4 – A lack of an inclusive environment and attention to social issues by the NFL Foundation has created a sport tone-deaf to what’s going on in the communities they say they are serving. And pumped fear into the very NFL players that help make them rich.
In an interview with Aaron Rodgers in August of 2016, it was made obvious by one of the leagues most talented and popular quarterbacks at the NFL was not a place to take a stance, comment on social and political issues, simply because they were afraid of backlash from the league. It’s one thing to hear this from popular black players, but very insightful hearing this from Rodgers himself. He too is making it obvious that the ability to bring your whole self to the NFL is not a luxury provided to the players without some kind of backlash. Praising the NBA for how they have created an inclusive atmosphere throughout the league in the interview.
Premise # 5 – Viewership of the NFL has been drastically falling year after year in just about every demographic measured.
This is a hard fact for the NFL. In this article studying the demographics of viewers of the NFL Viewership in the NFL viewership from women, men, African American, White, Asian, and Hispanic are shown over the past 4 years to be in an overwhelming decline. They attributed this to many theories Kap, domestic violence, and even poor programming (in an attempt to give smaller market teams more airtime). However, the more realistic items noticed is the move from cable to streaming, and the Dallas Cowboys losing to Green Bay. (not really, I’m just still upset about that game…. As a Dallas Native!)
OK, so there are some hard facts about this situation that I gathered as I sat back and tried to decide what in the world am I going to do this season while the NFL commences its 2017-2018 season. What do I think about those that have chosen to boycott? So here it is:
Until more of the NFL Players make it their priority to demand the entity they work for and contractually in agreement with to create an inclusive environment protecting their rights to be individuals first and members of a team second, I will not protest.
And reviewing the premises above this is why:
I haven’t seen one article or statement or interview showing Kap has called for a protest against the NFL for his unfair treatment and essentially being blackballed by owners across the league. How can I say the NFL is such a terrible foundation and have treated Kap so unfairly and yet, he’s still a free agent and not retired? It’s extremely hard for me to care more about someone else’s means of employment than they do. There are those boycotting the NFL, as he’s still actively seeking a means to get back in. As highlighted by Aaron Rodgers, many of the players are there to play football and choose their own methods to fight social injustice, and build up the communities they come from in a myriad of ways. We’ve made very popular the pre-school to prison pipeline for many young men of color, but we also forget there is also a pop-warner to professional pipeline of select individuals that have worked their lives to attain the position they have today in professional sports. Now a recently released article highlighted that Marshawn Lynch, one of the most highly respected players in the league has decided to sit during the National Anthem during this 2017 – 2018 season, all while finding out that Kaepernick (if signed) will stand during the anthem, as well as those that joined him around the league will stand.
Requirement: the NFL Players would need to unite themselves, before I can unite behind them.
Per all of the national marches, call for boycotts, and civil disobedience that has surfaced more aggressively over the past 2-3 years with Police Brutality coverage at an unprecedented high I’ve noticed a trend: We’re more passionate about protest, than prevention. It is so much more effective to be proactive, than reactive. The NFL, up until recently a non-profit organization, will not fix the interactions between our communities and police. The thing many people have neglected to mention about boycotts is that they must act in a duality of form. Start and Stop. It’s simple to say stop watching the NFL, but there has been no agreement on what the ask of the NFL will be, what the new activism will be towards having the conversations that Kap brought forth and the issues our communities are facing. It’s like a diet, you KNOW what NOT to eat, but you won’t get the results that you’d like if you don’t START engaging in healthy active lifestyle.
Requirement: the boycott would need to make clear demands of the NFL and a common action should take place in the place of the time and energy spent watching and supporting the NFL. (i.e. some large service projects during NFL games perhaps?)
The NFL is already in a decline of viewership, and despite popular opinion this money is something that’s more on the guaranteed side of their revenue streams and there would need to be a more strategic than a few Facebook posts and not supporting this 16 Week season. In order to make radical demands and change of the NFL, as spectators, it’s going to take intentional allies with groups that are likewise feeling the pain of oppression is a similar light. Vets, fighting for our country and receiving terrible care by U.S. in all aspects, Women, who are the victims of so many domestic violence cases even by very own players of the NFL (that still end up finding a way to find a job), Hispanics who are in a unique position of being the largest growing supporter demographic and also subjects of black/brown injustice and oppression. Since I’m not seeing that type of protest overhaul, I don’t see it being something we can truly say will be effective in the long run. We have to make clear demands of the organization or they will simply reorganize their structure and continue as planned. Look how the LGBTQ community made an impact as the NFL was preparing to move the Arizona Super Bowl to Tampa just a couple years ago.
Requirement: Call for allies including but not limited to White women, Hispanics, and Africa Americans as the most polarizing non-white male viewers of the sport to join in a protest.
Lastly, I want to bring this protest home for some people. And there’s a notion that I’d like to dispel when it comes to the complex scenario. At some point, we need to realize that just because these players are making substantially more than the average American we cannot expect it them to just up and leave their jobs by which they are contractually bound, and for many taking care of many levels of family by which we may never know. If the truth be told many of us shop at stores and work for corporations that have demonstrated extreme discrimination and unjust practices for decades and we don’t “up and leave” because one person was treated unfairly in another department. Because we too have made it up in our minds that we are there to “get a check and keep it moving.” And in addition, we don’t trust that others will stand with us. We are afraid that we too will stand alone in trying to change the culture. We have to realize that standing alone has its consequences it’s been that way for decades. As stated earlier, hearing that Kap, if signed, will stand for the anthem as well as the players that joined him in the previous season is kind of a slap in the face. Football players have a very limited time to maximize their earning potential in the sport they have spent their lives playing. Remember “secure the bag”. Many can do more with the money and influence off the field than they can do on. Similarly, we’re hired on our individual jobs to complete a task or create some type of unique value. Being unique and respected is a right we all have, but we do take the risk of losing that job if we engage in activities that prevent you from doing that job.
As millennials, we have a new outlook on what we want out of life, and for the most part are fueling a relative progressive ideal here in the United States. With collaboration fighting age-old cultures is a breeze, but we cannot for a second think just one group is going to get it done. I know I have not been called to lead a protest against the NFL nor plan to. So, this year I’ll be watching as the reasons provided in the aforementioned paragraphs. Again, I do highly respect those that have taken their stance in their way to show disapproval of the circumstances. Hopefully we can both coexist without spending hours bashing one another, and see the common ground to spark a revolution that truly does make it better for all.