Last season, I boycotted the NFL in support of Colin Kaepernick after the league blackballed him for protesting police brutality and racism in America. Since the day Colin took a knee during the national anthem in August of 2016, the police have killed at least 378 black Americans according to a Washington Post study. Since 2015, the data shows that approximately 3,357 people have been killed by police force. That number itself is staggering, but compared to that of international police records, it’s astronomical. American police are collectively out of control and violent, using fatal force without consequence. While it’s impossible to know the story of every black American killed by cops, there are handfuls of names that have stood out over the past few years: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Terence Crutcher, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Akai Gurley, Laquan McDonald, and at least hundreds more. Black names have become hashtags rather than human beings, judged post-mortem for every action or mistake they made throughout their lives that would have justified their murders. In the extremely rare case that a cop is actually held accountable for unnecessary use of force, another hashtag appears, continuously leaving activists and protestors feeling hopeless.
Colin Kaepernick recognized the constant stream of black murders at the hands of aggressive, homicidal cops, and found that the American flag has never represented black and brown people in the same way it has its white citizens. In the third stanza of the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key wrote, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,” which clearly shows how black people weren’t believed to be human beings back then and they still aren’t today by many people in America. The first amendment in the constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” In fact, in 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gregory Lee Johnson that burning the American flag was “protected expression under the First Amendment”. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. argued that although an audience may take offense to an action or expression, the visual form of free speech cannot be prohibited under the Constitution.
Colin Kaepernick and many other NFL players have exercised their first amendment rights to protest the documented and undocumented violence against black Americans during the national anthem. In an effort to silence any black man who speaks out against the corrupt criminal justice system, the NFL, assisted by the White House, has adopted a mandatory policy that all athletes stand during the national anthem or remain in the locker rooms or else the team will be subjected to fines and penalties. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.” Donald Trump praised the move approved by all 32 team owners, saying that the men who decide to protest shouldn’t play or be in the country. Of course, the policy is a maneuver to appease an ignorant fan base, many of whom have uttered just as many racial slurs or racist comments as the president himself. They’ve perverted the purpose of Colin’s protest, twisting the narrative into an anti-America, anti-military spectacle, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fact is none of those fans or the cash grabbing white men in charge actually care about the heart of the issue: black men and women are being murdered by those sworn to protect and serve them at an astonishing rate. Colin Kaepernick led the charge in 2016, risking his career and the game he loved to stand up for what was right. The league has continued to keep him off the field (along with former teammate Eric Reid) and has instead adopted more racist policies to silence the black and brown men who put their bodies on the line for white entertainment. I boycotted the NFL last year and I will never watch another football game again as long as white dollars matter more than black lives. I hope you’ll join me.