Will Black Lives Matter in the NFL?

By Zirin, Dave | The Progressive, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Will Black Lives Matter in the NFL?


Zirin, Dave, The Progressive


When Alton Sterling was killed by Baton Rouge police officers, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick responded immediately. Kaepernick wrote on Instagram, "This is what lynchings look like in 2016! Another murder in the streets because of the color of a mans skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable? Or did he fear for his life as he executed this man?"

When St. Paul's Philando Castile was killed by police the following day and the aftermath of his shooting live-streamed on Facebook, 49ers running back Reggie Bush (who just signed with the Buffalo Bills) tweeted, "Seriously twenty-four hours later another black man shot and killed dead by another cop! They said the body cameras were steps in the right direction."

These are only two examples--and there are many--of NFL players reacting with anger and disgust over police killings that have shaken the country this summer. These athletes amplified the voices of the thousands in the streets calling for some kind of justice. The question now, as the leaves begin to turn and NFL players transition from their vacation spots to the playing field, is what happens next?

For those with a superficial knowledge of how the NFL does business, the answer seems obvious. This is the NFL, also known as the "No Fun League." Any expression by a player of individual personality--let alone politics--subjects him to warnings, fines, or even being blackballed from being able to make a living.

This is a league that threatened to fine quarterback Jake Plummer for wearing a memorial decal on his helmet in honor of friend and former teammate Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger. Surely, they will not abide players speaking out for Black Lives Matter or wearing slogans on their uniforms. Except for one thing: The league already abided all of this in 2014. …

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