“People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up as far as, you know, giving freedom and justice and liberty to everybody.” – Colin Kaepernick
NFL football is my favorite sport. I’ve become so enamored that I’ve often waited with baited breath for irrelevant preseason games. Other sports have never measured up. The NBA’s seasons are lengthy; therefore, I rarely tune in before the playoffs and I’ve been paying the MLB dust since 1996. Largely, the NFL’s excitement is due to its unpredictability on any given Sunday. However, the recent blackballing of NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, has diminished that fascination with my favorite pastime. Consequently, I will be boycotting this upcoming NFL season if he isn’t signed to a team.
I wasn’t a Kaepernick fan before last Fall. After all, he’d defeated my beloved Atlanta Falcons in the 2013 NFC Championship, erasing my dreams of a Super Bowl victory. Like most of my community, I’d been negatively affected by the deaths of and subsequent injustice for unarmed people of color killed by the police. So, when Kaepernick began his protest against police brutality and systemic racism, I was in full support. Here was a star using his visibility to impact a cause that was dear to me. He was the Muhammad Ali of his generation.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
We’ve seen domestic abusers, rapists and murder suspects return to the league or land cushy commentator spots. We’ve seen inferior players considered or signed in the past weeks, proving that this isn’t about Kaepernick’s “mediocre” play. This insistence on punishing and silencing Kaepernick due to his stance is consistent with this country’s refusal to face accountability for its actions. Historically, systems of oppression haven’t been dismantled out of the kindness of the hearts of those in power. They’ve been eradicated with the type of activism and awareness that Kaepernick is displaying. What does it say about a league that is in opposition to that?
As much as I love the sport, missing a season or several isn’t life or death. The lives of the oppressed are far more valuable than any trivial form of entertainment. I’ll gladly utilize my Sundays on more productive endeavors: exploring more of the city’s attractions and finally delving into the classics collecting dust on my bookshelves. Police brutality is life or death. If the league doesn’t respect Kaepernick’s concern with the lives of marginalized people, they ultimately don’t view the players (most of whom are people of color) that line their coffers as anything more than commodities. Hasn’t it always been that way? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that it’s how it should always be.