The Cost of Activism in the NFL

Colin Kaepernick sat during the American national anthem as a means of peaceful protest against the oppression of people of colour in the United States in 2016. Former military member, and former NFL player, Nate Boyer, suggested Kaepernick kneel during the anthem rather than sit. This means of peaceful protest began drawing national and international attention, some supportive like President Barack Obama, but mostly negative reactions towards him. The NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, said he doesn’t agree with Kaepernick’s actions, but he supports players trying to make the world a better place.

Kaepernick’s Final Season?

He played the remainder of the 2016-2017 season for the San Fransisco 49ers. Kaepernick opted out of his contract at the end of that season, and has been a free agent since. He has attracted moderate interest from teams in the NFL, but the owners in the league have blacklisted him. In October 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL and the owners within it. His grievance focused on the owners in the league colluding to keep him out of the league.
In 2018, the NFL passed a rule that bans kneeling during the anthem. President Trump applauded the rule, but the NFL was forced to retract the rule because of how divisive it was. Before the start of the 2018 season, Kaepernick is still unsigned, but is the star of a Nike advertisement. Many people condemn Nike, while others praise them for taking a stand.

Kaepernick held a workout in 2019 for NFL teams to see him. Many regarded the teams that attended the workout were only there as a publicity stunt. He announces that while he waits for an NFL offer, he will write a memoir.

Fast Forward to George Floyd

After the horrific murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the NFL released a statement with respect to the incident that drew great criticism for their hypocritical remarks. Many players of colour from the NFL got together and created a video, calling for the NFL to condemn racism and state that “black lives matter”. NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell releases a statement saying that the NFL will be a part of moving social justice forward, and that the league should have listened to its players sooner. New Orleans Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees took to Twitter to argue that no one should disrespect the flag, no matter the circumstances. Following backlash from his teammates and the general public, Brees apologized for his comments. Meanwhile, President Trump tweets his support for Brees’ original comments, further supporting arguments that Trump is racist.

What’s Next?

Colin Kaepernick must feel some sort of retribution, after the recent protests and riots across the United States and the world. He stood up for what he believes in, and for what is right, despite the huge personal costs to his career. Kaepernick’s situation reminds me of another public figure exercising their constitutional rights to speak out against the status quo. The Dixie Chicks merely stated that they were ashamed the President of the United States was from Texas, and they were blacklisted across country music. Years later, when the War on Iraq was learned to be unnecessary, the Dixie Chicks also felt retribution for sticking up for what they believed in, despite the consequences.

In my opinion, when you stand for what is right, no matter what the immediate reaction is, you will always be on the right side of history. After watching Kaepernick’s workouts for NFL teams, I would hope to see him back in the league whenever it can begin play. After his return to play, I hope Kaepernick is able to maintain his values, and continue to fight for what is right.