I refuse to observe the NFL boycott because it is steeped in hypocrisy and misogynoir.

-Roni Dean-Burren, Ph.D.

By Roni Dean-Burren, Ph.D.

Since Earl Campbell donned the iconic Houston Oiler Blue, my Sundays have always been the same: Church and football.

Church was mandatory in my parents’ house. We got up on Sunday mornings, ate breakfast, and headed off to Sunday School. And while I believe my father worshiped his God in spirit and in truth, I believe his spirit truly could not wait to cheer for his beloved Houston Oilers after service. As a young football fan, I didn’t really understand the game, but sitting near my dad while Earl Campbell punished defenders was enough to make me fall in love with it.

The church-football tradition continued when I got married. My husband, a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, committed his way to the Lord from 8-10 am on Sunday mornings, then for the remainder of the day, committed his soul to a Cowboys victory.

That is what my Sundays have looked like for thirty-nine years. And now that a large faction of cishet Black men have collectively called for a boycott of the National Football League, I can tell you that I ain’t participating. At all.

I refuse to observe the NFL boycott because it is steeped in hypocrisy and misogynoir.

A year ago, San Francisco 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem. When asked why he chose not to stand, Kaepernick, in no uncertain terms, explained that his kneeling was a silent protest of savage police behavior towards Black people. During nearly every interview, Kaepernick, affectionately known as Kaep, never missed to the opportunity to criticize police and their inhumane treatment of Black folks in this country.

Likewise, White America and the Blue Lives Matter Brigade never stopped criticizing Kaep. He became their punching bag, and even though many veterans voiced support for Kaep’s right to kneel, the writing on the wall was clear: Kaep would pay. Forever.

Summer 2017 solidified his fate. Despite his not too shabby stats, not one single team signed Kaep for the 2017-2018 season. Owners and coaches alike pretended that he just didn’t fit on their roster, or with their offense, but we all knew the truth—they weren’t signing Kaep because he publicly, proudly, and persistently called out white America’s mistreatment of Black people.

After it became abundantly clear that Kaep’s activism would prevent him from playing another down, calls to boycott the league rolled in. By in large those calls came from Black men. Their voices were loud and strong. We “all” needed to boycott the NFL because those white owners did “us” wrong.

I could do nothing but laugh at their outrage. It was comical to me that the wokeness meter was set on a male-led boycott couched in a violent male-dominated—and historically anti-woman—sport.

My response was simple. I told Black men, “I’m not doing this NFL boycott with y’all. M’kay? I’m not signing nothing. I’m not sharing nothing. I’m not participating.”

Black men, in typical fashion, met my response with furor. How dare you not support this? This is not a woman vs. man issues, it’s an all of us issue.

Except it’s not.

When Ray Rice punched out his then fiancee, now wife in a Las Vegas hotel elevator, the NFL suspended him for two games. Only when the recording of his savage attack surfaced did the NFL decide to suspend him indefinitely. Here again, Black men’s voices were loud and strong. “Rice deserves to play” and “nobody should pay forever” was their refrain. They made no calls to protect Janay Rice. They made no attempts to organize an NFL boycott on behalf of women or sexual and domestic violence experienced at the hands of league players. Their only concern was a Black man’s reputation and playability.

That is why I’m sitting this boycott out. Black men have never wanted to boycott the NFL for its issues with violence against women.

So no.

I think it’s more important for me, a Black woman with a big voice, to sit this one out.

Because this current boycott is the perfect example of how Black men continually expect Black women to be their mules. They demand it of us. They were silent during our pain, but expect us to march, organize, and boycott when they feel under attack. Their male privilege coupled with male entitlement and expecting labor from Black women on their behalf is textbook misogynoir.

Since Black men want to set the woke meter, let me reset it. You can’t be a woke Black man and not stand for Black women. If you watched the NFL following Ray Rice’s videotaped violence against his wife, you ain’t woke.

The really sad part is Black men think they are doing something with this boycott. But the truth is, they showing Black women how deeply they are not at all committed to us or our safety. And if our safety isn’t prioritized that means our liberation is trivialized.

Auntie Maya Angelou told us, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

I believe you Black men.

This boycott reeks of Black male privilege and misogynoir, and I’ll have no parts of it.

Roni Dean-Burren, Ph.D. is a lecturer at the University of Houston. Her scholarly research and community activism center Black women and Black children. Support her work at paypal.me/RoniBurren.

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