“Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be…”
(Chuck D, Shocklee H., Sadler E., & Shocklee, K., 1989)
On Sunday, my Facebook memories included a 2016 blog post I wrote outlining my reasons for supporting Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest. Like many, I cheered from the sidelines while Colin took a knee, an act of protest that brought intense scrutiny and eventually forced him into unemployment. Leading up to the start of the 2017 NFL Season my social media timelines were flooded with #IStandWithKaep enthusiasts and detractors eager to deliberate why they were on the right side of the debate. Hopeful that he would be signed, many of the die-hard fans with whom I’m associated vowed to join in solidarity with those who are boycotting the 2017 season.
The preseason came and went and Kaep remained jobless. By the regular season opener it was obvious who was boycotting and who was boastfully watching…or so I thought. As week 2 commenced not only did I notice people who had reneged on their promise, but those who were previously vocal were now eerily silent.
I wonder if they committed to FIGHT THE POWER WHILE Kaep remained unsigned then weighed the pros and cons and decided that a boycott wouldn’t help his cause. It’s possible they are either quietly boycotting or shamefully watching and struggling with an internal conflict unsure if they should choose entertainment or fight the power. Perhaps they were lukewarm in their support to begin with, believing the threat of a boycott would be enough to force the hands of owners and coaches.
…or, maybe they’re just #wacksauce.
If other would-be boycotters’ social media timelines resemble mine, ignoring (or pretending to ignore) posts is only one test of their commitment. The workplace also offers temptations. On the days following games they have to tune out their quarterback coworkers’ play by plays. On casual Fridays they feel left out of revelry while colleagues are sporting jerseys, t-shirts, and sweatshirts emblazoned with their favorite team’s name. They have to forego office pools, Fantasy Football Leagues, and play off and pre-Super Bowl parties.
Some have admitted to straddling the fence because they believe the responsibility to support Kaep rests solely on the players and their union. Requiring 100% participation from the 70% of black players before joining the boycott is futile. Unlike last season, the number of black and white players who appear to be following the lead of the 21 players who boycotted the 1965 AFL All Star Game has increased. We are witnessing more players willing to FIGHT THE POWER FOR their former coworker by taking a knee and/or publicly speaking out against disparate treatment.
The players are needed to fight the power from the inside out. They are bringing racial oppression and inequality to a larger stage so that it has to be addressed by the league. Without the recent incident in which Seattle Seahawks Defense End Michael Bennett’s life was threatened by law enforcement, Commissioner Roger Goddell would never have releasing a statement of support. It’s these and other real-time “Story of OJ” moments that will force the league to stop ignoring the oppression of “regular” black and brown people.
Putting the “human” in my Human Resources Cap (shout out, my BlogFF, Janine Truitt) so that my values, morals, and ideology aren’t compromised, I decided to FIGHT THE POWER UNTIL the organizational culture of the NFL changes. Under normal circumstances, I would ask an employee who is being ostracized and pushed toward a constructive discharge why they would want to work for an organization like the NFL. I would encourage them to take their talents elsewhere and cut ties with a company that resembles modern day slavery fully equipped with owners and mock slave auctions. I would ask if their shared values, beliefs, and practices aligned with an organization where a team can have a racist name, where domestic abusers and rapists are forgiven, and 99% of deceased former employees suffered brain damage. Unfortunately for Kaep there is no other NFL where he can apply his skills.
I don’t think any of us expected for the situation to develop the way that it has. In my opinion, making a choice to boycott is bigger than Colin Kaepernick, his right to protest nonviolently, his desire to play, and any team’s willingness to hire him. He has become the unintentional change agent for transformation in an organization that desperately needs to improve. Considering the ultimate goal of the boycott is to take a stand against white supremacy, I find it hard to understand the unwillingness to make the small sacrifice to #BoycottNFL.