Djrobblog is a music blog, but a legendary rapper just gave me the inroad to a non-musical topic that this blogger has sought for months, and like a bee to honey, I’m all over it like U.S. Presidents are to Twitter.
Oh, that would only be one U.S. President, but you get the point.
Colin Kaepernick, the former Super Bowl-caliber quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers (he took them to two NFC Championship games also, btw), has essentially been blacklisted by all 32 teams of the NFL for taking a stand last season.
The stand? He refused to stand up when the National Anthem was played before his games out of protest against police brutality in black communities, and against social inequities on a larger scale.
The problem? Kaepernick is only 29 years old and just three years removed from taking the 49ers to two consecutive NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. Based on last season’s performance alone, he’s clearly a capable starting-caliber QB for any of the teams (like the Ravens and the Dolphins) who’ve needed fill-ins due to injuries this preseason, or at least a quality backup.
The unenlightened will tell you that there are other reasons for Kaepernick’s long-standing free-agency, like poorer performance and lesser QB-ratings over the past three seasons. They’ll even cite statistics purportedly supporting their case.
But the problem with statistics is that they can easily be refuted, especially in this case as there is likely at least one QB on every NFL roster with ratings lower than Kaepernick’s was in 2016. If the naysayers actually researched their premise, they’d have to find another lame argument to defend it.
Social media has buzzed about this issue for almost a year – since Kaepernick first took a knee – and now celebrities and musicians are weighing in. My (and I’m sure your) Facebook page has lit up with opinions left and right (mostly left in my case) about the need for us to support Kaep and boycott the NFL.
This week, in an article that ran in Billboard, rapper Chuck D of the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Public Enemy called for “those who are upset” to participate in a “full boycott.”
“Don’t go to the sports bars. Don’t turn the game on. Leave your team for a year,” he was quoted as saying.
That was the first time I’ve read an instructional – however incomplete – on how to actually boycott this massive American institution that many of us have been raised on and which, come every August (or for me, September when the games matter), is like an addictive drug that gives us reasons for being for the next six (or five) months.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, too, and what Chuck D suggests, while a good start, is really just the tip of the iceberg. A “full boycott” as he describes it, would need to go a lot further to be accurate. And while it would be hard to do (non-football fans are usually the most vocal about executing this), here are ten ways the most avid football fans can boycott the NFL – even if for just one season – as Chuck D suggested.
1. Don’t watch the games on your TV at home. Yep, even if you’re by yourself and feeling tempted to renege when no one is there to see your protest, you never know if Nielsen is monitoring your TV for its weekly ratings reports, and that’s what this boycott is all about – affecting the NFL’s TV ratings and bottom line.
2. Don’t go to sports bars (as Chuck D said). Besides, you’ll save money by not going and you won’t have to put up with obnoxious heckling from fans of teams other than yours. Oh, and speaking of your team…
3. Leave your team for a year (again, a Chuck D suggestion). That doesn’t mean give up your loyalty to that team, they can still remain in your hearts. You just can’t wear anything with their logos, talk to friends about them, or go to their games. And since Chuck D limits this to a year, instead of burning those jerseys (like many did Kaepernick’s last year), you can simply tuck them away in a drawer or closet until this moratorium is lifted.
4. Don’t talk NFL at the job or in sports circles. Water-cooler talk is how interest in NFL is stoked in group settings. When the topic comes up, you have to stand your ground and explain that you’re in protest of a sport that has gotten rich off the backs of many minorities about whom it cares very little when it comes to issues that affect their communities.
5. Don’t play Fantasy Football. Ouch, that’s a toughy! If you’re in a FF league – as I’ve been for the past 18 years – you can’t play it, no matter how tempting and even if you thought this year would be your year for the big prize at the end. I’ve bowed out of my league this year for reasons that have nothing to do with the protest, but this is a step that all true activists must take or else the other steps are done in vain. (By the way, Fantasy Football has increased NFL’s revenue immeasurably since it blew up in the 2000s, hence the crucial nature of this step.)
6. Don’t click on Internet articles about the NFL or any of the sports apps covering its stories. Yep, even if you have taken the first five steps and simply want to know how your “former” team or favorite player is doing, you can’t check. Stat trackers know how many clicks these things get, and your goal is to lower them.
7. Don’t watch SportsCenter. And while you’re at it, don’t watch sports talk shows like Mike & Mike, ESPN First Take, His & Hers, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption or any other of ESPN’s such shows. Those will no doubt be covering the NFL daily over the next six-plus months. Why support a network that itself won’t take a stand? And speaking of networks…
8. Don’t watch the NFL Network. While this is a no-brainer and wouldn’t seem to warrant mentioning, I included it for the sole purpose of giving you other options to feed your sports palette during this protest. You can now explore other sports outlets like NBA TV, MLB Network, NHL Network, the Tennis Channel, and maybe even the Golf Channel – because those sports have NEVER had issues with race, right?
9. Talk to your kids about the NFL. If you have sons (or even daughters) who play Pop Warner football and aspire to join the sports’ ultimate club, explain what’s happening and why they should reconsider it. Even if you think that super-talented kid is the next Tom Brady and your meal ticket out of poverty, you must resist the temptation and steer them away.
10. Stage visible protests. But be aware that this comes with risks, both to your own well-being as well as the potential for backfiring and bringing even more coverage to the sport, which you ultimately don’t want.
Some of that was admittedly tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps not all of it is necessary to stage an effective NFL boycott (although Chuck D did say “full”). In fact, the best way to affect the NFL is through its bottom line, which safely eliminates a few of the steps I included above.
An article I read on Blavity.com titled “How To Effectively Boycott the NFL” by Terry Lee focuses on the main contributor to the institution’s revenue. Television.
See the Blavity article at https://www.google.com/amp/s/blavity.com/amp/how-to-effectively-boycott-the-nfl
Lee cited statistics that said two-thirds of the NFL’s $13.3 Billion-dollar revenue in 2016 came from television viewership, or about $8.9B. He further stated that black men and women made up 17.3% of the NFL’s target age demographic (18-49 year-olds) who viewed the NFL (we only make up 12% of the overall U.S. population). That makes us the second-largest race demo who view NFL games – behind only white men and women – in the U.S.
Those are some pretty stark numbers which suggest that a real boycott – even if it only involves Step 1 above (and maybe 2 and 5) – would get the NFL and its team owners’ attention, especially in a league whose commissioner has designs on nearly doubling that $13B revenue over the next decade.
So where does all of this lead? Well, that’s a matter of personal choice and where you “stand” on the issue. Last year, I had friends and coworkers (white ones) tell me that they were boycotting the NFL for NOT doing something about Kaepernick when he protested during the Anthem.
Certainly those who have concerns about a league that would rather reinstate known domestic abusers, drug-users and sexual-offenders over someone with a conscience and concern about the well-being of an oppressed people can do the same.
Protests are indeed personal, but they are also public – lest they would not be effective.
You make your choice, and even be public about it, as so many in social media have been. And when you’re finished deciding about the NFL, maybe then we can move on to the next most visible institution that should have black folks (including many calling for an NFL boycott) up in arms for its negative portrayal of – and impact on – black communities, largely to the benefit of the non-black-owned corporations who profit from it.
That would be the music industry, particularly its hip-hop (and R&B) sector for the past several decades, with countless lyrics and themes that are degrading to black men and women, but which have lined the pockets of white-owned corporations for years.
But that’s a protest topic for a different day (and it would mean you shouldn’t even be reading this blog, because it does cover hip-hop… regularly).
And there – along with the fact that a rapper inspired this article in the first place – lies the irony in all of this.
Even if that rapper is a socially conscious one – like Chuck D has been – you have to see the irony.