TW: sexual assault and domestic violence
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has disrupted the NFL in more ways than one. He sat and later kneeled during the national anthem, which caused both cohesion and uproar within the NFL.
Fellow players have since stood with Kaepernick, whether sitting, kneeling, raising fists or linking arms. But the league hasn’t been supportive and many sponsors have ended relationships with players since the political statement.
Despite many players acting alongside Kaepernick, many fans have voiced their disgust with the quarterback’s actions. This sentiment is shared by many, so many that both CBS and NBC saw their lowest ratings during football games in seven years. If Kaepernick won’t stand for the national anthem, then apparently fans won’t watch games.
Actor James Woods, known for his fervent conservatism, is participating in this boycott. When speaking with TMZ Sports he said, “I hope they [Kaepernick and co.] respect my constitutional right never to watch the NFL again. I will never watch the NFL again. Ever.”
The Miami police union shares a similar, though slightly less strong, sentiment with Woods. After four Dolphins players kneeled before a game, the union announced a boycott against the NFL. Jeffery Bell, the International Union of Police Associations president, argued that players “give up that right of freedom of speech temporarily.”
There’s no surprise Kaepernick’s actions spurred backlash, but a boycott? Fans are boycotting the NFL because a person of color used his platform as a famous athlete to talk about a problem permeating his community.
Fans won’t boycott the NFL, however, when a player brutally assaults his wife. Or when a player sexually assaults two women. Or even when a player kills another human being. No, only when a player peacefully protests systematic racism.
That makes complete sense.
In 2014 former running back Ray Rice assaulted his then-fiancée. The NFL suspended him two games before a tape was released showing the assault. Only after the video made headlines did teams stop showing interest in Rice.
Steelers’ current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been publicly accused of sexual assault twice. After the first case, the NFL did nothing. Following the second incident, the league suspended Roethlisberger for six games. He maintained his Nike endorsement and signed a record-breaking $87.4 million contract with the Steelers in 2015. That year Forbes ranked Roethlisberger the 11th-highest-paid athlete in the world.
Apparently violating and brutalizing women isn’t enough to anger fans into boycotting the NFL. This is one of the many reasons rape continues to happen. The league isn’t held accountable for its negligence, which further condones such horrible mistreatment of women by its players.
Fans are calling Kaepernick unpatriotic, but he’s just exercising his right to free speech, something the American system claims to protect. In boycotting the NFL, fans are implying Kaepernick and his fellow protesters do not deserve that right.
This unacceptable reaction by fans and the NFL encourages the silencing of survivors as well as people of color. These communities need a voice, especially within the sports world and even more so in the face of a male-dominated entity like the NFL. There are many reasons to boycott the NFL but Kaepernick’s political statement is not one of them. The league has systematic issues that encourage the maltreatment of women and people of color. It is problematic that fans support the game despite these unacceptable situations.
It is further concerning that the NFL does almost nothing. The lack of action combined with fan’s unacceptable ignorance will surely continue to damage these glaring societal problems.