New York, Aug. 23 — A multinational crowd of at least 2,000 people, mainly African American, rallied here in front of the National Football League’s headquarters at 53rd Street and Park Avenue today to express their solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. The support action comes as Kaepernick’s anti-racism protest spreads among NFL players.
At the rally, speakers called for a boycott of NFL games by season ticket holders and TV viewers until Kaepernick is signed by a team. The NAACP has demanded a meeting with the NFL hierarchy, which represents the interests of the billionaire owners, on behalf of Kaepernick. Many held signs saying “#IamwithKap.”
Kaepernick, who is Black, sent shock waves throughout the NFL, other sports leagues and U.S. society as a whole, when he kneeled during the playing of the national anthem during the 2016 football season. He took a knee to protest racist police brutality, starting soon after the murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile outside St. Paul, Minn.
Since Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers, no other NFL team has signed him so far. Many of his supporters believe that the all-white and all-billionaire NFL owners are collectively punishing Kaepernick for his heroic political stance against racism, which continues to resonate with the public and with fellow football players during 2017 preseason games.
Kaepernick’s supporters say that this “blackballing” tactic is an attempt to discourage other players from expanding Kaepernick’s protest against racist injustice. If this is the owners’ plan, it clearly isn’t working. Support for this anti-racist protest has now spread beyond just the Black players, especially in reaction to the Aug. 12 white supremacist deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.
Black NFL players such as Eric Reid, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins continue to protest against the anthem, with support from white players such as Justin Britt and Chris Long. Just recently, Seth Devalve became the first white player to kneel during the national anthem along with 11 of his African-American Cleveland Browns teammates.
(WW photos: Toni Arenstein)