The NFL is dead to me. Through two weeks of the NFL season, I have yet to watch one second of a game. Coming from a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, that says a lot. I love football. Since my youth, I’ve spent many lazy Sunday afternoons watching nationally televised games. I’ve spent the past decade playing in various fantasy football leagues. But all of that ended this year.
Wait. Before you say, “Oh boy, here’s another one of those #ImWithKaep posts trying to shame me for watching football,” let me say this. I am not trying to convince anyone not to watch the NFL this year. I am only offering three reasons why I made the decision to turn my television off during NFL games. No shame. Just like I wouldn’t expect you to shame me for my decision. But I hope you’d like to understand my position, even if you don’t agree with it. I’ve got at least three reasons I feel like I’m done with the NFL.
1. Race issues have long plagued NFL front offices and something needs to change.
Yes. Colin Kaepernick is without a job two weeks into the season when Mike Glennon is out her getting $18.5 million guaranteed dollars. But let’s not go there just yet.
Let’s talk about the history of the league and black athletes. Let’s talk about the idea that black quarterbacks have historically been asked to switch positions on the field to one that “better suits” their skill set. Warren Moon fought that narrative and threw for over 49,000 yards over his career. Doug Williams fought that narrative and won a Super Bowl.
It’s not any better when to comes to coaching—especially when it comes to “cerebral” roles. 80 of the NFL’s current 85 offensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches and offensive quality control coaches are white, including all 37 with the word “quarterback” in their titles. It seems African-Americans make good strength and conditioning coaches, just not good quarterback coaches.
But they are exceptions to the rule. And it cuts both ways. Name four white starting running backs in the league. I’ll wait. Name two white starting cornerbacks in the league today (Jason Seahorn says hi!). Still waiting. Sadly, the game I knew and loved as a child morphed into a monster at the professional level. One that places players in categorical boxes they dare not break free from.
Now, about Kaepernick. Eight of the 32 quarterbacks starting in the NFL today are black. Colin Kaepernick is not one of them. Despite the fact that his Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) and other significant statistical categories in 2016 were better than some starters and backups in the league today (including Eli Manning). He’s better than at least seven starting quarterbacks today. Right now. But his phone isn’t ringing. Why not? Oh yeah…we’ll get to that.
I know I’ll get pushback. I know some will say I’m playing the race card. But it’s kind of hard to play the race card when it’s already on the table. This has been an issue for decades. Colin Kaepernick, a more than capable NFL quarterback, just happens to have been made the martyr.
I think ESPN’s Bill Barnwell summarizes it well:
Watching so many NFL teams willfully make ignorant choices and then complain about the lack of quarterback options while leaving a clearly qualified candidate on the sidelines makes it seem like the quality of decision-making in the modern NFL is far worse than the quality of play.
2. This is a civil rights issue.
Yeah. I said it. This is a civil rights issue at its very core. I get it. Other players are kneeling. Others players are raising their fist. But there is a cost associated with being first. And, as much as some would argue otherwise, Kaepernick is paying that cost right now.
Because I view this as a civil rights issue, I am planning to boycott the NFL. It’s part of my heritage. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 last 381 days. You know the story. Rosa Parks refused to move. Blacks mobilized in earliest mass protest on the behalf of civil rights in the United States. And it worked.
The boycott planted the seed for change in the city of Montgomery. And there are some people out there who are crazy enough to believe that an NFL boycott—no matter how insignificant it seems—can plant similar seeds. So do me a favor. Let us protest without questioning our sanity or sincerity.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a marked difference between a million dollar athlete being refused employment and working-class blacks being refused the right to be treated like human beings. But the same First Amendment that pertained to the free speech of the Freedom Riders pertains to Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players.
I get it. Most of the evidence is circumstantial. We have not heard anything from front offices about Kaepernick’s protest playing a role in their decision not to sign him. No front office would ever say that. But when two of the top quarterback in the league (Brady and Rodgers) both say Kaepernick should be on a team you have to start wondering what’s really going on. When you move past the statistics, this is about civil rights more than anything else. Giving someone the right that all of us hope to enjoy without hindrance (employment or otherwise).
3. Social movements always start with a small spark.
Ask Jesus and his disciples. A small group of 12 men went on to change the world. So who is to say that a small spark can’t ignite change in the NFL (and sports in general).
The pushback on this protest is grieving to me. What is that going to do? Do you know how powerful the NFL is? They could care less about you and your little protest.
Maybe so. Maybe Colin Kaepernick never takes another snap in the NFL. But I have decided to join others in protesting the NFL as a small demonstration of my support. Not just for Kaepernick, but for athletes league-wide who have historically been told where they fit in and asked not to question authority.
Why am I not protesting other leagues—like the NBA? Why not protest fair trade practices of companies like Starbucks or other U.S.-based importers?
I know there are other issues in our culture. That’s going to be the case as long as we live in a fallen world. But there are things about other leagues—the NBA in particular—that are promising. First, NBA players have guaranteed contracts for the duration of their contract. Whether they get hurt or not. NFL players do not. Shout out to the NBA Player’s Union for negotiating that deal.
Historically, a higher percentage of African-Americans have been head coaches in the NBA than in the NFL. There is one African-American principal owner in the three major sports. Yep, he’s in the NBA (from what I remember, he was a pretty good player too *wink, wink*). There are some things the NBA gets wrong, for sure. But there are many things that it has gotten right.So yeah, I’m going to watch my Spurs this year. My conscience is more seared when it comes to the NFL. If you’re isn’t. That’s fine. Just don’t Jedi Mind Trick me into thinking my efforts are without value.
There you have it. Three reasons the NFL is dead to me. I didn’t write this post to convince you to join me. Just to give you my reasoning the next time you text me on a Sunday and you ask me if I saw a spectacular catch. My response from here on out: Did someone sign Kaep?