If any story demonstrates that African-Americans and whites sometimes hold opposing perspectives, it's the saga of former 49ers football quarterback Colin Kaepernick. After he sat out a pregame performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” last year — and later famously took a knee during the national anthem — Kaepernick was vilified by some whites as a traitor disrespecting the memory of Americans killed in combat.
But many African-Americans embraced the player who took a seat to make a point about the nation's historic brutality against black folks and about the more recent police shootings of unarmed black men. For many nonwhite people, traditional symbols of U.S. superiority, sacrifice and pride are a mixed bag. And there's strong sentiment among many football fans that a skilled free agent is continuing to go unsigned because of his political views — because the league doesn't want to employ a rabble-rouser who rubs some fans the wrong way.
A local civil rights leader this week said it's time for the NFL to find a home for Kaepernick. If it doesn't, he's vowing to boycott Rams and Chargers preseason games. Oakland Raiders games also could be targeted. Representatives of the Rams and Chargers said, essentially, no comment.
Najee Ali, local leader of the National Action Network, a group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, announced in a statement, “Protests are also planned outside the L.A. Rams owned by Stan Kroenke and L.A. Chargers owned by Alex Spanos preseason games.”
“My attitude is Colin Kaepernick may not be Tom Brady, but you can't tell me he shouldn't be in training camp,” Ali says during a phone interview. “He's being blackballed for standing up for black and brown folks.”
“The National Action Network stands in support of Kaepernick and will lead a statewide boycott of the NFL along with encouraging others not to attend a L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers or Oakland Raiders game until Kaepernick is signed to a NFL team,” Rev. K.W. Tulloss, the Western regional director of the National Action Network, said in a statement.
Ali notes that Kaepernick is more than able to throw passes for an NFL squad. In 2012, he helped to lead the San Francisco team to its first Super Bowl in 18 years.
“The NFL is a form of the modern-day plantation,” Ali said in a statement. “Most of the players are black and the ownership is all white. They're treating Kaepernick like a runaway slave, making him an example so other players get the message: Do not get too uppity or we will blackball you. The parallels are very much like slavery, except the players are million-dollar slaves under contract who have made billions for the NFL.”
If Kaepernick remains unsigned, the coalition plans to demonstrate outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Coliseum on Aug. 12 as the Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason game.