More than 175,000 people have signed the #NoKaepernickNoNFL change.org petition to boycott football in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sat and knelt during the national anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in this country. Currently, no NFL teams have offered Kaepernick a job.
I’ve thought about this a lot. This suggested boycott is much more than just supporting an individual — and I’d like you to think about it, too.
This NFL boycott is a way for black people to say we disagree with the way we are treated when we stand up — or in this case, kneel down — for social justice.
I am a big NFL fan, and I love the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, but I will not be watching them this season. It’s not only because I’m supporting Kaepernick.
It’s because I’m supporting Tommie Smith.
It’s because I’m supporting John Carlos.
It’s because I’m supporting Craig Hodges.
All who were penalized by the sports world for taking a stand against social injustice.
Penalized by taking away their primary way of earning a living.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos won first and third places in the 200-meter sprint in the 1968 Summer Olympics. They both raised a gloved fist in the air — in what looked like the Black Power salute — while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played as they stood on the podium. It was to bring attention to “ongoing civil rights injustice,” Smith later said.
They also wore black socks and were shoeless to represent the poverty in which African-Americans were living. Avery Brundage, the American president of the International Olympic Committee, ordered Smith and Carlos expelled from the Games.
After the Olympics, both Smith and Carlos were ostracized by track event promoters, and struggled to make a living.
I regret to say I did not stop watching the Summer Olympics over the way they were treated for taking a public stand against racism.
Craig Hodges played for the Chicago Bulls from 1988 to 1992, and was the NBA’s 3-point shootout champion in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
But when the Bulls went to the White House to meet then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Hodges wore a dashiki and carried a handwritten letter that he presented to the president. The letter said minorities were suffering and asked the president to come up with a comprehensive plan to fight racism in the country. The Bulls waived Hodges that year, and he was not called in for a tryout by a single NBA team.
It was later said that when younger players were considering speaking out about social injustices, older NBA players would say: “Remember what happened to Craig Hodges.”
Hodges, who still speaks out on social justice issues, wrote a book last year about his NBA experience, “Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter.”
Even though I thought the NBA treated Hodges shabbily, I continued to watch the games.
All these black men did was speak out against social injustice. They did not march with torches denouncing a race or a religion.
They did not spew hate.
They spoke out against social injustice, and for this they are punished?
They were stopped from making a living to support their family because they were supporting their community?
And I’m supposed to be OK with that?
These men sacrificed their careers for us. So how about we simply make a commitment to forgo NFL football for a season? Is that really too much to ask?
And if you really don’t think the sacrifices these guys made are worth your time, think about this: If we continue to say nothing when it happens to people in the spotlight, you know what will happen to you, with no spotlight shining upon you, should you decide to say something someone else deems controversial.
Think about that for a minute.
Karen E. Quiñones Miller is a journalist, historian, author and community activist. She wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer.