How Black Women Supporting Colin Kaepernick May Force The NFL's Hand

Wednesday's 'United We Stand' rally kicks off a movement to challenge white supremacy in the NFL.

Mankaprr Conteh Aug, 23, 2017

Nearly a year ago, former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began standing up for Black lives with the bend of a knee to protest the National Anthem during games.

Now, a new regular season is just two weeks away, and Kaepernick is still without a team.

As it becomes more apparent that the Super-Bowl-XLVII-standout’s activism may be costing him his career, civil rights, civic and faith-based organizations have jumped to his defense, organizing a rally on August 23 in New York City, right on the doorstep of the National Football League’s Manhattan headquarters.

Black women — as with many historic acts of resistance in this country — are at helm of this pro-Kaep, pro-Black advocacy says organizer Tamika Mallory. Groups under Mallory’s leadership like Justice League NYC and Women’s March, and influencers like activist Brittany Packnett and political commentator Symone D. Sanders are a part of the coalition behind the rally.

“It’s important for us to rally people so all of America is on notice,” Mallory said. “I don’t think we’re organizing for one man as much as we are what that man stands for.” On Wednesday, Mallory will be among the gatherers at the United We Stand rally, where the groups will announce a non-violent direct action campaign targeting the NFL.

“It is clear the NFL’s intent to make an example out of Colin Kaepernick is rooted in white supremacy which dismisses the reality of the dehumanization of Black Bodies in America,” Rev. Stephen A. Green, president of The People’s Consortium for Human and Civil Rights, Inc., said in a statement. 

“Therefore, we are calling on people of good will to join us in New York to stand with Colin Kaepernick in this moral movement that will transform the nation.”

In the past year, Kaepernick has spoken out against police brutality, publicly commemorated Black freedom fighters, and made at least $800,000 worth of charitable organizations out-of-pocket donations, according to the Colin Kaepernick Foundation. The football star has pledged to bring that number to $1 million before the end of the year.

While the full spectrum of his philanthropy touches the lives of women and girls of color, he’s allocated $133,000 to organizations that center them specifically; the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Manhattan, Assata’s Daughters in Chicago, Helping Oppressed Mothers Endure (H.O.M.E.) in Atlanta, Mothers Against Police Brutality in Dallas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which works internationally. He’s also allocated another $140,000 to groups fighting mass incarceration, including Justice League NYC. Women are the fastest growing prison population, with Black and Hispanic women making up a majority of those incarcerated.

“To see Colin Kaepernick take a knee on behalf of our us and our families, on behalf of issues that we have been so vocal about, it really gives us the steam that we need to go forward,” says Mallory.

Mallory points out that several involved in the planning have also been at the forefront of efforts to address domestic violence against women, perpetrated by a number of high-profile NFL players.

When former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice was given a lenient punishment for assaulting his now-wife in 2014, Mallory and other Black women organizers met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, calling him to task.

“For those of us who were involved, this [organizing on behalf of Kaepernick] is a continuation of that work.”

According to The Washington Post, nearly half of the NFL’s more than 150 million American fans are women, and they make up over a third of its average viewership.

This makes them nearly impossible to ignore, an economic asset capable of serious disruption. If Black women join Mallory, Sanders, and a broad coalition of Americans in actively rejecting the NFL’s discrimination against Kaepernick, the league may be forced to confront its reproduction of white supremacy. 

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Colin Kaepernick has caused controversy by kneeling to the national anthem, sparking a dialogue about race relations in America. Of course Kaepernick isn't the first athlete to protest between the lines of play. There was the man who shock up the world, boxing legend Muhammad Ali refused his draft orders for the Vietnam war in 1967 with his famous words I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong. He was fined, sentenced to five years in prison, and banned from boxing for three years. Ali managed to stay out of prison by appealing his case, and later reclaimed his heavyweight title. Just as Ali stands became iconic, so to was the powerful image of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics The pair raised their fist on the national anthem as a message to the world about America's racial inequality. The result, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the US team and scorned by the media for being unpatriotic. 40 years later, a statue of the Olympians was erected in their honor at their alma mater, San Jose State University. And before Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem, Mahoud Abdul-Rouf remained seated. The Denver Nuggets guard felt that standing for the National Anthem contradicted his Islamic beliefs. When asked why he would not stand, Abdul-Rouf said, you can't be for God and for oppression. Despite averaging more than 19 points per game, Abdul-Rouf was traded, following the 1996 season. Colin Kaepernick is only the most recent athlete stand up for a cause. Even as fans burned his jerseys, Kaepernick has been joined by his fellow athletes, men and women, black and white, across the sporting landscape. Kap isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]