I did it! I made it through Sunday without watching any NFL game! Perhaps I didn’t mention it, but I’ve decided to boycott the National Football League.
It’s not an easy decision for me. I played football. Come to think of it, that might explain my mental acuity (or lack thereof). But I’ve had a lifetime attachment to the game. Until now. At least I won’t be watching the pros play on TV, and certainly not in person. That’s become way too expensive.
The reason for my shunning the NFL can be explained in two words. You can probably guess them. No, not those two words. I’m talking about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who isn’t — isn’t on any pro squad in spite of the fact that he is way more qualified than many of the others who’ve at least hung on as backups.
By now you know the reason why; Kaepernick created quite an uproar last year when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. He chose not to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He explained that it was his way of expressing opposition to the sometimes deadly police brutality on so many occasions aimed at minorities and the mistreatment in general of the poor and people of color.
Kaepernick, obviously, doesn’t fit the stereotype of the dumb, oblivious jock. Nor does he comply with the regimented, go-along-with-the-program mandate that’s implicit in professional sports. So in spite of crushing pressure to abandon his protest, he refused. He continued to sit out and, finally, kneel out during the national anthem. Imagine the abuse he got. It showered down from people who said it deeply offended their sense of patriotism and particularly those who are severely antagonized by anti-law-enforcement expressions like Black Lives Matter.
At the end of last year, Kaepernick decided to become a free agent, to leave the 49ers and to try to sign a more lucrative contract with another team. But guess what? No other organization would have anything to do with him. In spite of his obvious talents and record, including a Super Bowl win as the starting quarterback, Kaepernick was not hired by any franchise, even those who developed a dire need for quarterback help.
It’s obvious that his protest is the reason; equally obvious that he’s been blackballed. Some of the team owners — a conservative bunch of rich guys — simply are bugged by his action or by his violation of the make-no-waves mandate. Others are more concerned that the controversy would antagonize fans, so their stifling of the free expression that is so fundamental in the USA was a financial decision — an un-American one, but strictly about profits. Add to that the fact that they include ostentatious displays of military support in the festivities that surround their games. I should mention that team owners get paid some big bucks by the armed forces to do so? Can’t be messing with the business model, now can we?
So Colin Kaepernick isn’t on any roster as the season begins. The NFL is without Kaepernick, and it’ll be without Franken. As much as I love the game, this isn’t a big decision. I’ve already chosen not to go to any games of the Washington pro football club because of the team name, the R-word. So ignoring the whole thing is not that big a deal, particularly with the dismal record the National Football League has had dealing with pervasive head injuries to its players and the lengths league officials went to hide the danger.
Besides, I have baseball, and if I must get a football fix, there’s the college game, although thanks to the NCAA, that also is dicey.
Perhaps as the season goes on, some NFL owner will be desperate for a quarterback, so much so that he’ll be forced to miraculously rediscover his sense of American decency and take on Colin Kaepernick. Until then, it’s time to boycott the NFL.
Bob Franken is a former CNN anchor.