It has been four years since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the United States. Believed by many to have been blackballed by the league for taking a stand, a position that is tough to argue against considering some of the quarterback troubles faced by various teams in that time frame, he has become a household name and a key figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only has Kaepernick remained unsigned, but the league has attempted to play both sides of the fence in effort to placate its white fans without alienating players who share Kaepernick’s concerns.
Protests over the high profile, senseless killings of Black Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and most recently George Floyd appear to have finally gotten through to the league, prompting commissioner Roger Goodell to deliver this strong message.
We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter. #InspireChange pic.twitter.com/ENWQP8A0sv— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2020
The league is facing renewed concerns about its hiring practices with only four African American Head Coaches and two General Managers among 32 predominantly black teams. Kyle Shanahan, the current Head Coach of Kaepernick’s old team, the San Francisco 49ers, pointed out that discrepancy as he spoke at length about the issue yesterday.
“People are hurting,” Shanahan said. “Black people mainly are scared. And the disturbing thing is they’ve been scared for a long time. And this is their cry for help that they’ve been giving for a long time and people don’t totally listen. I think everyone’s at fault for that. I’m not saying black people are because they’re the ones who have been screaming. I think everyone’s at fault for not totally listening. And I think one thing that bothers me the most just throughout this and throughout my own life experiences and stuff, (is that) racism is a big deal in our country right now. That’s a fact. That’s not debatable. It’s always been a big deal. And it is today just like it was 100 years ago. And I think something, just as a white person that bothers me, (is that) I don’t think all white people realize that.
“(Racism’s) happened too long and it’s very clear. I don’t want to debate it anymore. No one does. Open your eyes.”
Make no mistake, there will be some backlash from a segment of the fanbase, including some season ticketholders. Real change almost always comes at a cost. Kudos to the league for standing in support of its players and for what is right, but there is much work to be done.