Quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned to a National Football League (NFL) team nearly a year after he started protesting racism and police violence by kneeling during the pre-game national anthem. More than 1,000 of his supporters—who accuse the league of punishing Kaepernick for speaking out—rallied outside the NFL’s New York City headquarters yesterday (August 23) to stand with the activist player. Per ESPN, many attendees donned Kaepernick’s former #7 San Francisco 49ers jersey and called for boycotts against the NFL at United We Stand: Rally for Colin Kaepernick.
The rally was organized by a coalition of advocacy organizations, faith-based groups and sports personalities through The People’s Consortium for Human and Civil Rights. Buzzfeed reprinted a letter of demands that a group of coalition leaders, including Women’s March co-organizers Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, issued to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ahead of the action:
We are now calling on the NFL to take action in two ways.
As you know, the NFL does not currently have a policy on the books as it relates to expressed advocacy. To remedy this, we are requesting the NFL implement a policy guaranteeing the freedom of speech of players to express their concerns on social justice issues. These issues include, but are not limited to: racial inequality, police brutality, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, gender pay equity and reproductive rights. Furthermore, within this policy, the NFL shall safeguard players from intimidation, ostracization and exclusion by owners, sponsors, coaches, players and staff. Any team suspected of prohibiting or outright denying a player his rights shall be punished under the tampering guidelines set forth by the NFL.
Secondly, it is indisputable that long held racial beliefs are embedded in the fabric of the NFL and many of these beliefs still govern who makes it to the field. To that end, we are requesting the NFL establish a unit tasked with developing a league wide plan to improve racial equity. This unit shall provide recommendations to the NFL leadership and the NFL shall provide considerable resources to implement the recommendations.
The rally echoed these calls, with speeches from Mallory and fellow signee Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of the Empowerment Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, among others.
"I don’t care how long you’ve been watching football, if they don’t stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off," said Mallory, as quoted by ESPN.
"How in the world can we call ourselves the land of the free, the home of the brave, and you get vilified and criminalized just for speaking your mind?” added Rev. Bryant, as quoted by ESPN. "The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if Black players get a concussion. They just got a problem if Black players get a conscience."
Here are seven tweets that capture the action’s spirit in photos and video:
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) August 23, 2017
— Coy Wire (@CoyWire) August 23, 2017
— Porter Shields (@PorterShields) August 24, 2017
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 23, 2017
— Keisha (@KJayTruth) August 24, 2017
— KnowYourRightsCamp (@yourrightscamp) August 23, 2017
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) August 23, 2017
The NAACP also called for a meeting with Goodell in a letter on Tuesday (August 22). Goodell has not publicly responded to either the rally coalition or NAACP’s requests as of press time.
Kaepernick acknowledged the rally’s organizers and participants by retweeting several photos and videos taken at the action.