Sign Kaepernick Or Else! Supporters Tell NFL #ImWithKap

Black Power statue at Smithsonian Museum of African American History. Photo credit: Leanna Renee

Fans and supporters of Colin Kaepernick rallied outside of NFL headquarters Wednesday to protest the NFL’s apparent blackballing of Kaepernick in light of his 2016 demonstrations, in which he kneeled or sat for the national anthem during league games.

The protest drew ire as anti-police from some, including Donald Trump whose campaign and inauguration received large sums from high-ranking NFL associates. His demonstration also drew tremendous support and has grown exponenttially as the NFL’s 2017 preseason has gotten under way.

Kaepernick knelt in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality at the start of last year’s football season while quarterbacking for the San Francisco 49ers.

“Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned,” which many are accusing the league of instigating behind the secenes.

Those who gathered outside the league’s headquarters were demanding that Kaepernick be signed with a team by the brginning of the regular season or else they would  call for a boycott.

The protest was organized in part by the Women’s March which lead the nation’s largest protest on the weekend that Donald Trump was innaugurated in D.C.

Revrend Jamal Bryant said at the protest: “How in the world can we call ourselves the land of the free, the home of the brave, and you get villified and criminalized just for speaking your mind? The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if black players get a concussion. They just got a problem if black players get a conscience.”

The NAACP called a meeting with the NFL Wednesday to discuss Kaepernick’s situation, with the group’s president writing that Kaepernick remaining unsigned by a new team is “no sheer coincidence” in light of last year’s protest.

So far this preseason, it seems that more players have joined in solidarity with Kaepernick’s demonstration, especially in light of the events two weeks ago in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Monday, 12 Cleveland Browns knelt during the national anthem, with the demonstration’s first white football player joining them.

At another preseason game, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles raised his fist during the anthem while being held around the shoulders by two other teammates. Chris Long, who held his arm around Jenkins in solidarity, said that Kaepernick “should have a job. Point blank.”

Donald Trump brought up Kaepernick in a March rally, stating that “NFL owners don’t want to pick [him] up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.” Many of Kaepernick’s supporters believe this is, at least in part, the inspiration behind Kaepernick’s continued unemployment. According to the Guardian, “NFL owners donated 42 times more cash…to Republican causes as compared with Democratic ones in 2015 and 2016.” And, according to the Daily Beast, 7 % of the $107 million Donald Trump raised for his inauguration came from NFL associated donors alone.

At least a thousand people turned up in NYC to show their support for Kaepernick and their disdain for the NFL’s actions toward him.

According to Pastor Stephen Green, who spoke about Kaepernick to his congregation while wearing Kaepernick’s number 7 jersey this past Sunday, “The NFL’s silence showed their heart…it showed they valued compliance above all else. It showed they would allow one man’s advocacy to result in his unemployment.”

NFL leaders, however, claim that their decisions are coming because of messages they’ve received from fans and corporate sponsors decrying Kaepernick’s actions as “unpatriotic” and anti-police. John Mara, of the New York Giants said a typical letter would read “If any of your players do that, we are never coming to another Giants’ game.”

Kaepernick backed up his demonstration with activism, putting actions to his symbolic inactions when off the field.

His Twitter feed, as one judgmental Yahoo journalist put it, “is a near daily display of activist messages and arguments.” tracks Kaepernick’s activism, including his million dollar pledge which combines the athlete’s own money with donations to donate to “organizations in oppressed communities.” His foundation also has a “Know Your Rights” campaign to help educate minorities about their interactions with police and the criminal justice system, both of which are statistically biased against racial minorities.

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