It’s been three years and nine months since former-San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel during the United States' national anthem to protest against police brutality and racism in the country.
Nearly four years later, with his continued dedication to the protests, the issue remains and Kaepernick is still jobless and blackballed.
After the brutal, on-camera police-killing of George Floyd, the NFL released what would be their first of multiple statements addressing the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor but — like in the past — they neglected to acknowledge the police brutality and/or racism involved with those deaths. The league said they understand that “the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society,” but failed to make any mention of the protests they stifled years earlier.
The NFL had the opportunity to be on the right side of history. Now, their message rings hollow.
Days later, a coalition of black NFL stars came together to release a joint video addressed to the NFL, asserting their right to peacefully protest, Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu asks the question, “How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players?”
The league could have just listened to Colin Kaepernick.
Instead of listening to the quarterback’s desire to be heard, the NFL approved a policy — without consulting the NFLPA — that any player protesting during the national anthem will be subject to punishment. (Thankfully, the league’s anthem rule was never enforced and disappeared two months later, after the NFLPA refuted it.)
Somehow, the national conversation was shifted to the disrespect of the flag and military, although Kaepernick consulted with a former Green Beret about his protesting methods.
It’s not about the flag, and it never has been. The highjacking of Kaepernick’s message is why we find ourselves yet again entrenched in this conversation. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ comments are the most recent example of the misguided representations of the protests.
But Brees, over the course of his three separate statements since, has expressed an understanding of how he misconstrued the protesting players' message.
And in their second statement, in response to the previous video from the coalition of players, the NFL and Roger Goodell made a public course-correction of their own.
It's a nice video. ...You do know we all remember, though, right?
This would have been a powerful statement at the height of "the power of [their] platform," while advocating for the issue before it was the new norm, but why should we trust the league now?
Former NFL running back Arian Foster, who was a part of the national anthem protests in 2016, took exception to the league’s initial statement. In a podcast interview with Pardon My Take, Foster explained the NFL had a track record of being reactionary instead of proactive. In terms of the statement, Foster said, “They’re saying they’re with the protests because it’s safe to do so now.”
For the NFL to be taken seriously, even in light of their second statement, they not only needed to retroactively condemn the action of stifling protesting efforts by Kaepernick and other players around the league, but they must still acknowledge that Kaepernick deserves to have a job in the NFL again.
If the NFL wants to act out its newfound convictions, there should be no reason Kaepernick doesn’t have an NFL contract. The league can’t claim full support until they support the man they condemned before.
Give Colin Kaepernick his job back, then we'll talk.