Displeasure with the NFL's continued exclusion of onetime San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is heating up. Los Angeles civil rights leaders this week called on the City Council to declare "a day of recognition in Los Angeles for Colin Kaepernick," according to a statement from the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable.
Discussion of Kaepernick's NFL unemployment — he's remained a free agent despite having been a part of the Super Bowl–winning 49ers in 2012 — has reached a fever pitch this summer. Critics see racism in his league snubbing.
Kaepernick sat out a pregame performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" last year and then began taking a knee during the national anthem as a way of highlighting the bittersweet history African-Americans have had with what others see as symbols of national pride. Many black Americans praised the quarterback, who went to high school in California, while some whites believed he was being disrespectful to the sacrifices made by combat veterans.
Last week Najee Ali, local leader of the National Action Network, called the NFL "a modern-day plantation" and said that his group would boycott area Rams and Chargers games until Kaepernick was signed by the league. This week Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable president Earl Ofari Hutchinson announced that he's gathered a group of local civil rights leaders to call on the City Council to declare Saturday — the date of the Rams' opener against Dallas at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — Colin Kaepernick Day.
"Colin Kaepernick has created a lot of dialogue on race and racism," Hutchinson says. "L.A., we well know, is a sports-crazed town. So with professional football really kicking off in this town, the time is right."
The leader says he sent a statement to Mayor Eric Garcetti and that he's talked to City Council president Herb Wesson about the request. It's not clear if there's support on the council for this, however. The body has reveled in the return of the NFL to Los Angeles and might not want to rock the boat.
Hutchinson says that if the council doesn't act in the next day or so, he'll appear in person to speak before the body and put it on the spot regarding Colin Kaepernick Day.
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"The Rams and the Chargers are not playing out in Orange County, they're not playing in Simi Valley, they're playing in the inner city," Hutchinson says, noting that the Rams' home base is the Coliseum and the Chargers' turf is the StubHub Center in Carson. "These are multiethnic, inner-city communities. It's hard to make the argument they have no relation to the central core of what L.A. represents — one of the most multiethnic cities on the planet."
Hutchinson says he supports Saturday's National Action Network demonstration outside the Rams preseason opener and that he'll be talking about it on-air during his 9 a.m. radio show on KPFK (90.7 FM). The protest could be the first of many outside Rams and Chargers games if Kaepernick isn't signed, organizers say.
"Kaepernick is a true American patriot who's reminiscent of Muhammad Ali," says the National Action Network's Ali. "There's no question that he's being blackballed by NFL owners. We're expecting to get a lot of people out there Saturday."
"There's urgency to get Kap signed ASAP before the season officially starts," he says. "Civil disobedience will be our next option."