According to VICE, “African-American males are only six percent of the United States population, but comprise nearly 70 percent of the players in the National Football League.” The NFL’s 32 teams earned around $12 billion in 2015 with merchandise sales over $1.55 billion. As for Colin Kaepernick’s contribution to league revenue, the 49ers quarterback had the 3rd highest selling jersey in 2014 and 7th most coveted jersey in 2015. You can still get your Colin Kaepernick jersey at NFLShop.com for $99; recent controversy won’t get in the way of NFL profits.
However, if the NFL benefits immensely from the work of black men, why doesn’t it address serious issues of concern to America’s black community? Specifically, why hasn’t the NFL addressed the issue of unarmed black men being killed by law enforcement? According to The Washington Post, “black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.” In addition, The Washington Post writes “unarmed black men are seven times more likely than whites to die by police gunfire.”
Other statistics are just as startling. The Guardian states “Despite making up only 2 percent of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15 percent of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police.”
Although the NFL is oblivious to this fact, the demographic linked to “15 percent of all deaths logged” also make up the majority of college and professional football players.
Black men comprise 57-70 percent of college football players and 70 percent of NFL players (and the vast majority are between the ages of 15 and 34), yet college and professional football remain silent on issues like racism, police brutality and the death of unarmed black citizens.
Commissioner Roger Goodell earned $31.7 million in 2015; down from the $44.2 million he received in 2012. Although he’s happy making over $30 million dollars running a league where 7 out of 10 players are black, Goodell and the NFL have yet to publicize the life and death dilemmas affecting black citizens. One would think that a league comprised primarily of black athletes would take greater interest in the societal issues affecting its players. The NFL has never officially addressed the deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, John Crawford, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and so many other unarmed black citizens.
The magnitude of this epidemic is highlighted by James E. Causey in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece titled “Police kill more unarmed black people,” report says:
A report released this month showed that unarmed African Americans are twice as likely to be killed by cops as white people.
This story is not surprising to most people, but if you ever needed a reason to support the “Black Lives Matter” campaign look no further than these statistics. In 2015 alone, 102 of the 464 unarmed individuals killed by police were black. That means 32% of those killed by police were black, compared with 15% of whites and 25.4% of Hispanics.
In 2015, “102 of the 464 unarmed individuals killed by police were black.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made $31.7 million in 2015, in a league where 70 percent of players are black men. Yet, the NFL remains silent on the topics addressed by the 49ers quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick explained the philosophy behind why he’s sitting during the national anthem in an interview with SFGate.com:
So many people see the flag as a symbol of the military. How do you view it and what do you say to those people?
I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
Are you concerned that this can be seen as a blanket indictment of law enforcement in general?
There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable.
Do you want to expand on that?
You have Hillary who has called black teens or black kids super predators, you have Donald Trump who’s openly racist. We have a presidential candidate who has deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me because if that was any other person you’d be in prison. So, what is this country really standing for?
It is a country that has elected a black president twice...
It has elected a black president but there are also a lot of things that haven’t changed. There are a lot of issues that still haven’t been addressed and that’s something over an 8-year term there’s a lot of those things are hard to change and there’s a lot of those things that he doesn’t necessarily have complete control over.
What would be a success?
That’s a tough question because there’s a lot of things that need to change, a lot of different issues that need to be addressed. That’s something that it’s really hard to lock down one specific thing that needs to change currently.
Regarding the issue of race and this election, Kaepernick’s is correct in stating “You have Hillary who has called black teens or black kids super predators, you have Donald Trump who’s openly racist.” Also, it’s unfortunate that most of his critics ignore Colin Kaepernick when he says, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.”
In addition, Kaepernick is absolutely right in stating that America doesn’t treat it’s returning veterans in a just manner. In 2013, Paul Ryan defended cuts to military retiree benefits and 41 Republican Senators blocked a landmark veterans bill in 2014. As for learning the consequences of sending Americans to fight endless wars in the Middle East, Hillary Clinton in 2015 called for more U.S. ground troops to be sent back to war. Clinton is also advised by George W. Bush’s neoconservatives; from Iraq to Libya, the Democratic nominee is known for a hawkish foreign policy.
Veterans or families who’ve lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan have every right to be upset with Mr. Kaepernick, if indeed many find his actions offensive; they’ve sacrificed infinitely more than most Americans. However, the majority of this country has little comprehension regarding the costs of war. Most Americans are more worried about defeating ISIS than ensuring we don’t send Americans back to perpetual war. In addition, most Americans are unfortunately oblivious to the human costs of war.
Since the start of Iraq and Afghanistan, 6,888 Americans have died and almost 50,000 Americans have been wounded in combat. Despite the immense sacrifice of soldiers and their families, the majority of Americans favor sending more U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS. In addition, over 1 million veterans have been injured in both Iraq and Afghanistan and these wars have resulted in major unintended consequences (ISIS and an increase in terrorism), yet there hasn’t been widespread outrage from the American public.
The fact that “102 of the 464 unarmed individuals killed by police were black” in 2015 hasn’t elicited outrage from the average NFL fan.
Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the national anthem has elicited a greater national uproar than the existence of police brutality. His protest has caused more NFL fans outrage than the endless counterinsurgency wars that failed to bring democracy, or even stability, to the Middle East.
I always stand during the national anthem out of respect and tradition; however, I’m not in a position to publicize a moral injustice. Colin Kaepernick is risking his livelihood and taking a noble stand against issues affecting the majority of NFL players, as well as America’s black community. Since Congress and President Obama have yet to give these issues the national attention they deserve, the 49ers quarterback should be praised for his courage; even though his protest is inherently offensive to many people. Colin Kaepernick should be commended, not condemned, by a society more interested in the latest reality show than the ravages of war and systemic racism.