Over the weekend, the Los Angeles chapter of Al Sharpton's National Action Network demonstrated outside the Rams' preseason opener at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The organization, led by local civil rights leader Najee Ali, is one of the first in the nation to commit to an NFL boycott. It's spurning Rams, Chargers and Raiders preseason games until quarterback Colin Kaepernick is signed to an NFL team.
Kaepernick, who played for the 49ers last season, was ostracized by some fans for remaining silent during a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and for taking a knee during the pregame performances of the national anthem. He later explained that he was demonstrating against police shootings of unarmed black men. His stance, reviled by some white fans, is widely believed to have cost him a job with the NFL. He remains a free agent ahead of the new season.
The local boycott preceded a slew of actions designed to pressure the league into finding a place for Kaepernick, who played high school football in California. "L.A. is essentially ground zero for this NFL boycott and protest," Ali says.
The latest move comes from national progressive group Credo Action, which announced that it's launching an online signature "campaign calling on the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to speak out against the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick by NFL owners," according to a statement.
"We'd like them to help put some public pressure on the league," Credo senior campaign manager Heidi Hess says. "There's a general consensus that Kaepernick is being blackballed, and there's not any kind of institutional pushback from anyone connected to the league, and it makes it seem like everyone's OK with it."
The NFLPA's membership is nearly 70 percent African-American, according to Credo. We reached out to the players association but did not get a response.
The campaign follows a recent Change.org petition calling for a boycott of NFL games if Kaepernick doesn't step foot on an NFL gridiron this season. Organizers, who are also targeting league advertisers, are hoping to receive 1 million endorsements by Sept. 7, the regular season's opening date. The petition already has more than 160,000 signatures.
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And Hollywood director Spike Lee recently dove into the fray, endorsing an Aug. 23 rally at the NFL's New York headquarters in support of Kaepernick. "I support my brother and his stance on injustices in the USA," Lee tweeted Tuesday.
It's not clear if the National Action Network is supporting a coast-to-coast NFL boycott. We reached out to the organization but did not hear back. In a recent radio interview, Sharpton said, "I'm not supporting Kaepernick — I'm supporting us because he supported us. He took a stand."
Ali of L.A.'s National Action Network says if Kaepernick isn't signed soon, the group might resort to civil disobedience outside Southern California games.
"It's not about Kaepernick," he says, "It's about black children, women and men being murdered by police with no convictions. We're not waiting. We're putting people in the streets around the Coliseum in a serious, major way."