Two years ago when news broke of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee for all of the oppressed people in the world, who knew this is where we would end up. The NFL has released a new policy that basically states that every NFL player or personnel on the field must stand during the national anthem, or be fined. They even snuck in a loophole thinking it would be “fair”, that players or personnel who wish not to stand can wait in the locker room.
Once again there is an attempt to silence the voices of those taking a stand for the oppressed. When Kaepernick explained why he kneeled, giving a voice to the voiceless was one of his main reasons. Instead of choosing to understand his intent and the reason behind his actions, the NFL decided he was disrespecting the flag. They tried to silence his voice but he stood firm and loud despite opposition. It’s been two years and Kaepernick still has not been signed by a team.
It’s been no secret that the NFL has lost money since the start of Kaepernick’s silent protest due to boycotting, but it’s been from two opposing sides. People who are boycotting due to Kaepernick still not being signed and what that represents, and people who are boycotting because the NFL allowed players to kneel during the anthem.
My first question is: when did it become mandatory for anyone besides the person singing and military personnel to stand? I’m pretty sure it’s not. You won’t find it anywhere in the constitution or among the amendments. So what gives the NFL the right to make anyone stand?
In the statement released on May 23rd from the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explaining the new policy, a few key things stood out. “The policy updated today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country” it said. Well Mr. Goodell, is it really? Or is it only towards the communities that the NFL's offices deem acceptable, because it’s clearly not committed to the black community. The following sentence is contradictory as well. “We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society." But, this policy isn’t fair. If the NFL was really concerned about the goals of justice, this policy wouldn’t exist. This policy is the NFL saving face and picking a side. If this was a war, the NFL basically put out a statement saying which side they just chose to align with.
There is one more sentence I want to point out towards the end of the first section. “We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it.” Which of course, is also contradictory. This whole policy is. Since they mentioned the “extraordinary players” let’s talk about them. The NFL is 70% black. This policy slaps over half of their players in the face. If they have a mission to kneel for, they no longer have that right. I know that not all 70% felt the desire to kneel, but I’m sure some wanted to but might have been afraid. This policy is the NFL showing it’s true colors. So many people turned Kaepernick’s silent protest into an unpatriotic event, that the NFL buckled under the pressure.
As I looked at many conversations about the policy, I’ve read many bringing up freedom of speech or freedom of expression. Stating that those things don’t truly exist in the workplace due to the effect they might have and how it could affect the company’s perception. I understand those points and depending on the situation that’s true; but not when you’re trying to bring awareness to a string of senseless murders.
Throughout this entire ordeal, people have claimed that what Kaepernick was doing was not American. It became clear that Americans don’t care about black people as much as they care about football. I guess it’s American to kill unarmed black people? I guess it’s American for America to disregard the murders of oppressed people, but pay attention to the fact that some players took a knee during their beloved national Anthem. Racism showed it’s face loud and clear and in plain site, and the NFL embraced it with open arms.
As a black man, I can no longer watch or support a company that blatantly says "we don’t care about your oppression". We don’t care about the long list of senseless murders and systemic injustices you deal with. To them, we are nothing but athletes there to make them money. They claim to value the minds and opinions of our players, about the state of their communities in which some of them grew up in, but this policy proves otherwise. Just buy our product and watch the teams play so ratings can generate money for us is all I’m hearing from the NFL now. Over the years there have been many players who have been forgiven or overlooked for committing actual crimes. Assault, abuse, rape, murder, yet most of the fans, coaches or owners still can’t seem to understand the real meaning behind why Kaepernick took a knee.
Now that the NFL has chosen sides, are we as black people finally going to say “Ok, we’ve had enough” and show them our true power as consumers? I’ve seen some people state that no matter what has transpired, some black people will still watch the games regardless. Which is true. My final question is: what is it going to take for us to say no more? No more support or money from our pockets. This policy is about so much more than just kneeling during the national anthem. It’s about how America views black people. How America treats black people. The NFL is considered an American business, so this action they have put forth comes as no surprise to me.
2018 is the year of accountability. Now is the time for us to start holding these businesses and companies that don’t value us as human beings with rights accountable. It is time to start really hitting them where it hurts. Boycotting is a must. The only way they will understand is through the loss of money. We have real issues we deal with. We have voices and we need to be heard. Our issues are not to be swept under the rug any longer, or kept in a locker room because you don’t want to upset others. As long as the NFL continues to side with a group of people who consider me and my fellow people of color not human or not of value and worth. I refuse to watch anything associated with the NFL, and you shouldn’t either.
Let’s not allow them to tell our fellow black men to shut up, stand up, and play and remain silent just so they can make the fans feel they are “patriotic.”