More than a thousand demonstrators gathered outside the National Football League headquarters Wednesday to voice their support for Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who is indefinitely sidelined following his dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers. The demonstrators demanded that some NFL team sign the ousted quarterback on by the start of regular season next month.
“Boycott! Boycott!” chanted groups of protesters. Many were wearing 49ers jerseys with Kapernick’s name and roster number emblazoned on the back.
“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?” said Rev Jamal Bryant, one of the demonstrators. “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.”
Kaepernick took his team to the Super Bowl one season, and his performance in 2016 was above-average despite his team’s overall losing record: He started 11 games last season and completed 196 of his 331 passes for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he added 69 runs for 468 yards and two touchdowns. But he alienated some fans and many NFL executives with statements on racial issues in the United States—in particular, by kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against police shootings of black people.
No team has offered Kaepernick a position so far. Many Kaepernick supporters charge that the league is punishing him for his politics.
The NAACP has called for a meeting with the NFL to discuss Kaepernick’s future. Derrick Johnson, the organization’s interim president, defended Kaepernick in a letter in which he wrote that “no player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech.”