Activists, supporters back Colin Kaepernick against alleged blacklisting for his protest of racial injustices
Dozens of activists and organizations alongside hundreds of supporters rallied Wednesday outside NFL headquarters in New York to protest alleged efforts to blackball former star quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The former San Francisco 49er may be out of a job but he has kicked off a national movement after he took a stand against police brutality and racial injustice last August by taking a knee during the national anthem in a preseason game.
"The NFL is okay with you getting a concussion, but has a problem when you develop a conscience," Jamal Bryant, Pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland, told the cheering crowds.
Bryant said black players comprised 75 percent of the league but team owners do not invest in black communities, instead donating $110 million through their association to President Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony.
If the league is above politics as it claims to be, Bryant asked, "How is it that Tom Brady can wear a hat that said 'Make America Great Again' and he can still have a job but if you grow an afro, you get blackballed and put on the side? Something is wrong."
"In every city where there is an NFL team, we are expecting a financial investment," he added.
One of the most influential Muslim activists in the U.S. and a co-organizer of the massive Women's March in January, Linda Sarsour said: "We stand with Kaepernick. We want him to get signed.
"If the NFL can sign rapists, domestic violence abusers, animal abusers, then you know what, they can sign a man who stood up for what is right and highlighted the injustices in the underrepresented communities that he comes from," Sarsour said.
The organizers of the march said their request for an audience with the NFL was rejected, adding that they would give the organization until September 7 -- the start of the new season -- to honor their request.
They also called on Verizon, one of the biggest sponsors of the NFL, to drop its support.
Kaepernick made national news last August when he began kneeling during the national anthem in protest.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Practically alone in his early protests, he was soon joined by other athletes from the sports world.
Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve became the first white player in the league to take a knee during the anthem prior to a preseason game earlier this week.
DeValve was one of nearly a dozen Browns players who knelt, in addition to those who supported their teammates by placing their hands on their shoulders, in what was the largest showing for an anthem protest in the league.
The New York Police Department deployed dozens of officers for the rally.
Dozens of current and retired NYPD officers gathered Saturday in Brooklyn to show support for Kaepernick.
As his free agency continues, since he opted out of a contract with the 49ers in March, Kaepernick has been busy making a difference through non-profit efforts.
He promised $1 million for minority communities and has already distributed $800,000 among several non profits and causes.
Kaepernick donated to rapper J. Cole’s non-profit Dreamville, an initial sum of $34,000, and then wrote another check worth $100,000 in support of the organization. He also donated to the Lower East Side Girls Club and the 100 Suits for 100 Men that helps former prisoners secure employment by offering them suits for job interviews as well as assistance to navigate their new life.
Kaepernick’s free agency, has been a source of controversy as supporters claim he is being blacklisted by the NFL for his political views.
The six-year veteran was one play from winning the Super Bowl championship in 2013 but has been over looked by teams.
Kaepernick is “getting a raw deal” from NFL owners, according to baseball legend and civil activist Hank Aaron, who received death threats and endured racial abuse while trying to dethrone Babe Ruth as the all-time home run king in the 1970s.
Aaron, 83, told The Tom Joyner Show he would not be watching the NFL this season in protest against the league’s treatment of Kaepernick.
“I’d love to see some other players stand up. I think it would help him,” Aaron said.