Week one of the NFL 2017 season started on Sunday, September 11. With all 32 NFL owners and teams refusing to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick due to his protest against racial injustice, my taste buds for the love of football has drastically changed. Kaepernick’s act of kneeling last year for the national anthem in protest of our country’s racial injustice towards Blacks drew disfavor among NFL owners.
I have been an ardent NFL football fan most of my life. Growing up in Baltimore, my family religiously followed the Baltimore Colts and now the Ravens. I proudly attended the Super Bowl parade in Baltimore in 2000 with the defensive dream team of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. And then in 2013, I watched my beloved Ravens’ win over San Francisco against then quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As an added bonus, I attended the Ravens’ honor at the White House following their 2013 win. My brother played high school and later college football—further increasing my love of the sport at a very early age.
None of my experiences will allow me to watch the NFL make an example of Colin Kaepernick for asserting his first amendment right to free speech. If Kaepernick had done something in violation of his contract or committed a crime, perhaps, I could see the need for punishment. The irony is the NFL over the years rarely banishes a player for committing criminal acts, except perhaps former Ravens player Ray Rice.
Case in point is former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis who was charged with two counts of murder when two men were stabbed to death in 2000 following a Super Bowl party. Lewis later struck a plea bargain deal and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He continued to play until his retirement. Lewis commented recently that Kaepernick should play on the field but give up his social justice voice on and off the field. Kaepernick has reportedly stated he will not protest, if signed by a team.
Recently Lewis alleged the Ravens refused to sign Kaepernick due to tweets by Kaepernick’s girlfriend. Give me a break. Interesting enough, the Ravens did not back Lewis on this insane comment. They know the real deal as to why Kaepernick was not signed. And it has nothing to do with a girlfriend’s tweet but everything to do with a black man asserting his opinion on racial injustice in a silent kneeling position during the playing of the national anthem.
Seventy percent of all NFL players are black players. NFL players are allowed to play in a sport that, in recent concussion studies, shows extremely harmful effects to their health due to head concussions. Many NFL players suffer with degenerative brain disease known as CTE which for many years the NFL denied existed.
The real control over players’ health, earnings, livelihood and right to speak out on social justice issues lays with the white NFL owners. All 32 NFL owners are white. NFL owners want Black players to play football at all costs, including giving up their health, knowledge about the risks of playing and freedom of speech afforded to them in the Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution and the first amendment have nothing to do with the NFL and playing football, if the truth be told according to league owners. And if the real truth be told, black lives have nothing to do with football, according to NFL owners, except to make white owners and the NFL richer. In 2015, the 32 NFL teams earned $12 billion dollars.
And the real truth is Black Lives matter but just not to the NFL. Colin Kaepernick knows the real truth. And for that reason, NFL owners refuse to sign Kaepernick. For those who stand with Kaepernick and the reasons underlying his protest, a boycott of the NFL and its sponsors deserves our unwavering support.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor. She frequently appears on MSNBC, Al Jazeera, PBS, CBS and Fox 5 DC as a legal analyst. Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.