"This is the same organization that has benefited from and subsists on the degradation and exploitation of Black bodies..."

-Jenn M. Jackson

Too often, in our hasty gestures of doling out ally and wokeness credits, we fail to turn a critical lens to the ways that performative activism rarely metes out actual social change. And while Colin Kaepernick’s recent activist work seems to be more than performance, recent protests on his behalf and his continued fight to get back into the NFL raise important questions about how we approach Black liberation both in theory and in praxis.

The ex-quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers became an unexpected (and maybe even unintended) activist icon last August when he refused to stand for the National Anthem. His concerns stemmed mainly from the oppression of Black people and other people of color in the United States, like Philando Castile who was killed by St. Anthony, Minnesota Police a month earlier. Kaepernick concluded his protest in March believing that he had sparked national discussion about inequality.

Since opting out of his contract, Kaepernick has struggled to secure a spot on a new team. But that hasn’t kept the football star from trying.

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, The Nation‘s sports correspondent Dave Zirin said,

What Colin Kaepernick is saying and what the people very close to him are saying is that all he wants is an invitation to a training camp, which he has not gotten, which actually goes against – some other anonymous reports came out that are unconfirmed – that he was invited to several training camps and just did not go because he did not think he could start. I can confirm that that’s actually not true.

Now, the question that remains is whether or not what we’re looking at is the sort of thing that NFL teams, NFL owners – they tend to be a very conservative lot. They’re just sort of deciding individually, with a degree of groupthink, that they won’t sign him or, as one former NFL player said, that he had information that the NFL had contacted teams and told them not to sign Kaepernick, particularly the Seattle Seahawks. And if that’s the case, what we’re talking about is collusion.

Essentially, Kaepernick is working diligently to gain the approval of and access to the fans, team owners, and NFL bureaucrats who have essentially blacklisted him for speaking on behalf of Black people.

This is the same organization and the same fans, team owners, and NFL bureaucrats who supported ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice when video evidence emerged of him knocking unconscious and then dragging his then-fiance Janay Rice in a parking structure. These fans, team owners, and NFL bureaucrats couldn’t care less about issues like domestic violence though. It took the league a year to suspend Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekial Elliot after his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson accused him of physically assaulting her five times in a six-day stretch in July 2016. One whole year. And, many hailed this as a victory given the extremely low to nonexistent rate of consequence for men who abuse their domestic partners in the NFL.

This is the same organization that is directly linked to the high prevalence of C.T.E., a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head. C.T.E. was found in the brain of Junior Seau, a 20 year pro-baller who died of suicide. He was only 43. And, with 70% of the NFL being comprised of Black men, it is nearly impossible to untether this issue from its anti-Black moorings.

To drive the point home: this is the same organization that has benefited from and subsists on the degradation and exploitation of Black bodies (and I use that term intentionally).

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.