Being a fan of football since a kid, I can remember watching the Atlanta Falcons lose season after season and the joy it brought me to see them make it to the NFC Championship in 1998. I recall debating winners of upcoming games with my little brother who wasn’t (and still isn’t) a fan of the home team. And most of all, rival game watching between my mom and dad who both favored different teams was a highlight in my childhood, all thanks to the NFL.
Like many fans and families, football has served many purposes in my life. Now at 30 with a family of my own, Sundays in front of the TV, in our Atlanta Falcons gear has been a tradition for the last three years. The last couple of years I have watched off-field situations occur with individual players, and punishments implemented; some I agreed with and others I didn’t. However, the 2016-2017 year has forced me to consider withdrawing my membership from the NFL fan club.
As racial tensions rose to an epic height and spilled into every part of our lives the past year, the NFL was not void of their role in the continuing saga.
San Francisco 49ers, QB Colin Kaepernick, decided this past season to kneel during the National Anthem and refused to salute the American flag for the sake of bringing awareness and conversation to the blatant unequal, and unfavorable treatment of Black Americans by police. Who would have thought that standing for injustice would be the one thing that deemed Colin unfit to play in the National Football League. This even after the very veterans the NFL defended, stood in support of him.
Still, Kaepernick has yet to be picked up by any team after the 49ers released him. The reason, they say his career is shot, yet his statistics for last year are better than at least five other quarter-backs currently signed to teams. They also say it has nothing to do with him kneeling, in which he made a statement proclaiming his voice was heard and would stand during the upcoming season. But, IF the delay in signing him really has nothing to do with him kneeling and everything to do with his numbers, why then is the “no kneeling” clause necessary in every contract presented to him?
We can speculate and say it’s race or the kneeling, or somewhat his statistics, and maybe it’s a mix of all three. But one thing is for sure, as a black American, with little black sons, I can no longer support the machine that is the NFL. I cannot sit comfortably on Sundays and forget about all that has transpired. I cannot watch in tradition as usual and support an international establishment that stands silent on social injustices and seeks to make an example of those who speak against it. I cannot patronize a business, where black players account for a significant role yet are bullied into corners for their personal beliefs. I can no longer support an organization that welcomes the likes of men who harass women, as well as drug and domestic abusers but denies opportunities to those that take a stand on real issues.
I hope other fans and players take a stand and boycott the NFL as Americans. Because as such, we have a choice and a first amendment right that allows us all to take the powerful stance as Colin did. I can only hope other players, look at the bigger picture and kneel in honor of injustice and Kaepernick in the upcoming season. But most importantly I hope that Black America, both players and fans alike, for the sake of the upcoming generations and our children, find their voices and use them to bring about change; not only in the NFL but in American society. Farewell NFL.