Am I Really About To Give Up Football?

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu

With football season about to begin and Colin Kaepernick still out of a job, the masses including a group of NYPD officers seek to voice their displeasure with the league. Calls throughout the black community to boycott the NFL have widely circulated, and Jahmal has to decide where he stands.

Are you giving up football? You’re joking right. This isn’t a real question. 

It is absolutely a real question. In the past few months I have been confronted with an inescapable reality, one I have willingly chosen to ignore, but with recent events has become even harder to avoid. With Colin Kaepernick failing to be signed by any team, many teams not willing to reach out to him and owners stumbling over their own excuses – insinuating that due to his political stance that signing him will "upset some people" – it has become more clear that the NFL doesn’t care about black people.

Seventy percent of the league is black. How can you say they don’t like black people?

The NFL has proven for many years that they want to make money. And typically in this country, when the profit margin is the only priority, black Americans are usually the ones getting the short end of the stick. The NFL won’t turn away talent (unless you kneel for the anthem and speak up for the rights of black people). The league has no problem employing as many black people on the field as they need to continue being a billion dollar corporation, no matter how many of them end up living with a debilitating brain disease after their career ends.

John Lynch makes sure to tell the world how "divisive" anthem protests are while saying nothing about injustices towards black and brown people and the lives of other persons of color. Photo: Getty Images

What the league won’t do is employ black people anywhere else. Last week, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch touted the NFL as “a great beacon for the rest of culture in terms of the way it should be” during his statement about the “divisiveness” of the anthem protests. That “great beacon” currently has zero black owners and all but one is a white male. Only three general managers and just five head coaches are black. And in Lynch’s Utopian “beacon” that is the NFL, in a league that is overwhelmingly comprised of persons of color, somehow they have only been able to hire 23 minority head coaches since 1979. If Lynch is saying that this country should continue the standard of white men occupying all the positions of power, while people of color only serve merely as workers, then he's definitely correct about what the NFL represents.

The NFL also does not care about Native Americans as they willingly allow the use of a racial slur as a team mascot. But that wasn't the question of the day, so I'll leave it alone.

Do you even like football?

No, I don’t like football, I love it. My entire Sunday schedule is built around the NFL. I choose which church to attend based on whether or not they have a service that ends in enough time to get me home by 10 AM (the start time for NFL on the West Coast). I keep football displayed on my television, my phone, my computer and fantasy football scores on my tablet. When the Dallas Cowboys play I don’t leave my couch, foregoing eating and urinary functions. In my life there exists only two times of the year – football season and not-football season.

So you play fantasy football. Would you be giving that up as well?

Technically if I’m boycotting the NFL, I shouldn’t be playing fantasy football. I want to be true to the cause. Unfortunately I cannot break away from my league just yet. I play with my brothers and closest friends, and it serves as a way for us to stay connected, check-in with each other, and continue strengthening the bond we have created for well over a decade. Similar to ensuring that I am standing firm on my convictions, and standing beside my community, I also am dedicated to my strongest personal relationships. So fantasy football stays for now.

How are you going to actually play fantasy football if you decide to participate in the boycott?

Fantasy football is a numbers game. It is akin to the stock market. While some people may choose to, you don’t have to watch the stock market minute by minute to be good at it. I'll still read articles and information. I just won't spend my time consuming football the way I would in past years.

But if you boycott everything that has racist or oppressive implications for black people, wouldn’t you have to protest everything?

My good friend expressed these same sentiments. I thought he was going to hit me with lame black people excuses for not protesting, but he is choosing to watch football because he simply enjoys it. He also knows that it is impossible to boycott everything that has someone, or some rule (formal or informal) that may contribute to disenfranchising black Americans. I get it and in many ways I agree. There are definitely other businesses that I support that may not operate in the best interests of my people.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

It feels as if we are at the precipice of a movement. When a group of black pastors created this video and initiated the #NFLBlackout, they produced it with conviction. There have already been protests at the NFL offices over the treatment of Kaepernick, but this most recent movement to not watch any games, attend any games, or buy any merchandise is a message from black America to the NFL that our passion for entertainment does not supersede our passion and support for our community. It is a message that clearly states if organizations continue to fail to operate in the best interests of black people and other minority communities, that we will fail to take part in whatever they may be offering.

Players are continuing to kneel for the anthem during the NFL preseason, and just this week 12 Cleveland Browns players protested in a circle continuing the awareness that Kaepernick started. An online petition in support of Kaepernick has gathered over 130 thousand signatures. This movement has legs, and from my vantage point is only at the beginning.

You sound like you have given this a lot of thought. Are you really about to give up football this season?  

I guess I am.

NFL, I’m blacking you out. And you know why.

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