NFL boycott a defense of free speech

It’s been nearly a month and I am still boycotting NFL games this season. Social justice activist Shaun King, in the June piece he wrote for the New York Daily News, called for it because of the apparent blackballing of Black quarterback Colin Kaepernick, still an unsigned free agent.

(MGN Online)

“If you call the decisions by 32 teams to not sign this man a football decision…it is disgusting,” he wrote. “It’s racism. It’s bigotry. It’s discrimination.”

King’s boycott call, which is endorsed by, among others, Sirius XM’s Karen Hunter and Joe Madison, comes because Kaepernick last season knelt during the national anthem in protest against police-related killings of Blacks and other racial injustices.

It really isn’t a bother at all for this columnist. I usually don’t spend my Sundays glued to the television screen watching NFL games like some religious experience — or any other day of the week that these games are telecast, for that matter.

The NFL’s historic cultural conditioning ranges from not playing Blacks as quarterbacks to not hiring Blacks as coaches and GMs. This is the same league that went overboard in its cover-up of studies that playing football could be damaging to its players’ health, including discrediting the Black doctor who discovered the brain disease that could be triggered by too many hits and eventually lead to the player’s early death. It’s the same league that won’t force the Washington team owner from using its racist nickname and logo that demeans Native Americans, a team that was originally named by an avowed racist.

It’s a no-brainer: The NFL is simply telling its players, most of whom are Black, that if you speak your mind, you won’t be around long. And it isn’t just Black players. Remember the White Minnesota Vikings kicker who was waived after his support for marriage equality; the official line was that his kicking skills had eroded.

The attack on free speech, especially if practiced by someone Black, continues as the White House last week called for the firing of ESPN’s Jemele Hill after she tweeted that the president is a White supremacist. The four-letter cable network later issued a “those comments aren’t ours” statement, and Hill later apologized, stating that it was her personal opinion and not her employer’s.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), of which this columnist is a member in good standing, came out in support of Hill, as did many other fellow Black journalists. The double standard problem here is that as Hill tweets from her own personal account, she seemingly isn’t allowed to express her personal opinion. Yet the president can regularly shame, blame and belittle people, places and things willy-nilly on his personal Twitter account.

Also, if the president is so bothered by what Hill said — and she isn’t the first to say this either on social media or traditional media — that pales in comparison to what his predecessor, his wife and his two daughters endured for eight years. Not once did the White House call for someone to be fired during that time span.

Back to the NFL: I asked a few Blacks who love pro football if they are aware of the boycott and if they would support it. “I did not know about the boycott” until his uncle told him about it, said “Jasper” (his real name withheld by request). Another Black man, a diehard Chicago Bears fan, flatly told me that such boycotts won’t make a difference because NFL Black players aren’t going to jeopardize their jobs.

Sadly, he might be right, but I’m nonetheless sticking to the NFL boycott. It might not make a difference to the rich owners, but it does to me.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to