Last week, hundreds gathered outside of NFL headquarters to protest the League’s retaliation against Colin Kaepernick and for turning a deaf ear to the suffering of their fans.
The NFL collectively has ostracized Kaepernick, a member of the NFL players union, for exercising his constitutionally protected right of free speech, after kneeling during the National Anthem to call attention to the disproportionate injuries and deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement.
“I support the #BlackoutNFL protest because it is past time for us to engage in a national discussion to insist that law enforcement uphold Constitutional protections as they perform their duties,” said McElhaney. “As more players, including Oakland native Marshawn Lynch move to exercise their rights, the public must be concerned about the League’s stance against athletes and other employees.
McElhaney believes the NFL’s position to punish Kaepernick has a chilling effect on all voices of dissent and makes all employees vulnerable to retaliation by an employer for all forms of peaceful protest.
“Today, it’s punishing those affirming that Black Lives Matter; tomorrow, it could be employees standing up for immigrant rights or speaking out against terrorist attacks targeting LGBTQ people like the Orlando shooting. We have to speak up now to protect the players and to protect all of our rights to free speech,” she added.
In 2015, a cop tackled a bikini-clad Black teen girl and aimed his gun at unarmed Black teens peacefully assembled at a McKinney Texas pool party. In 2016, Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted and sentenced to 263 years in prison after sexually assaulting African-American women in Oklahoma City’s poorest neighborhoods. This year, on Father’s Day, Bakersfield Police claimed to believe Tatyana Hargrove, a 5’2, 19-year old woman was in fact a 5’10, 170-pound man and beat her viciously; and, the Oakland Police Department that has been entrenched in the sex scandal of a teenager.
All of these matters are examples of issues Kaepernick’s protest sought to expose and “deserve national attention” said McElhaney.
Despite the NFL’s measures to denounce domestic violence by its players following Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice’ incident in 2014, the NFL’s practice of retention and promotion of its players who have physically and emotionally assaulted their wives and girlfriends continues to assert the behavior is acceptable.
Berkeley sociologist Harry Edwards said, “They [NFL] have brought in people who have been associated with double murders… people who have been associated with rape, drafted a guy in this past draft that hit a woman so hard in Oklahoma he could have killed her. They have brought back people who have been guilty of vehicle manslaughter while driving under the influence, and who have beaten on women [multiple] times.”
By nurturing a culture that tolerates domestic violence even as it punishes free speech the NFL is complicit in creating a hostile work environment for their employees, 70 percent of whom are Black men.
McElhaney urges all consumers to join in the #BlackoutNFL protest until the National Football League, the NFL Player’s Association and owners take action to:
1) Affirm and Protect the Free Speech rights of all employees (not be confused with protecting hate speech);
2) Condemn any action by law enforcement that deprives any citizen due process protections;
3) Support the Movement for Black Lives;
4) End the collusion that has prevented Colin Kaepernick from being offered a position commensurate with his athletic skills and performance.