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A Call to Action: Boycott the NFL (By: Zachary Draves)

It has become absolutely clear that we are in a moment in history where athlete activism is not only common place, but it is expected. In the case of the NFL, players beginning with Colin Kaepernick have been consistent in their taking a knee to non-violently protest racial injustice and police brutality during the national anthem. Their courage to take a knee on a national stage to draw attention to the plight of communities of color has been nothing short of an inspiration. Also, they have backed up their protest with action in the form of community and civic engagement. Notable examples include the efforts of Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp aimed at educating young people of color of their rights when interacting with law enforcement to his giving money to social justice organizations. He also has given former inmates his old suits to wear for job interviews and experienced a cultural endeavor in Ghana last summer where he was welcomed with opened arms. Other examples of activists include Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long of the Philadelphia Eagles. Malcolm has lobbied on Capitol Hill and met with lawmakers advocating for criminal justice reform. Chris spoke up against the white supremacist terrorism in Charlottesville and donated his salary to organizations advocating for educational equality. The efforts of these men should be applauded and admired.

Unfortunately, they have been met with tremendous backlash and hatred from fans, commentators, owners, the commissioner, and the so-called President of the United States who referred to them as SOB’s in the state of Alabama while remaining completely ignorant of the history of Alabama. In the two years since Colin Kaepernick began this protest, the NFL’s collective response has been subpar to say the least. They have completely blackballed Colin from playing due to his courageous act and have attempted to try to shut down other players from protesting in every way possible. That ultimately culminated in the NFL issuing a policy that says that the players must either stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker during while anthem was played. If the players don’t follow these orders they will be fined by the league. It is absolutely a disgrace that the league doesn’t embrace players engaging in social activism and want to crackdown on it, while simultaneously tolerating everything from domestic violence to sexual assault to concussions that cause life threatening physical and mental harm. They also tolerate the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of cheerleaders but not civil disobedience against racism. For these reasons, this is a call for all to boycott the NFL this season. In the process, we demand the NFL does the following:

1.Repeal the new anthem policy and allow for the players to engage in protest without repercussion.

2. Allow for any of the 30 teams to sign Colin Kaepernick.

3. Create and implement policies that tackle the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault seriously and involve organizations such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the No More Campaign in the formation of those policies.

4. Create a mental health policy with independent oversight to ensure that players have access to counseling and therapy for issues relating to anxiety, depression, or any mental health condition.

5. Be honest and transparent about the dangers of playing football when it comes to head injuries, concussions, and CTE and compensate current and former players who have endured tremendous suffering of these injuries which were neglected by the league.

6. The resignation of Rodger Goodell.

7. Compensate NFL cheerleaders who were the victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, and were grossly underpaid.

8. Partner with civil and human rights organizations to promote justice and equality.

9. Ensure that players have guaranteed contracts so that social activism doesn’t put their careers in jeopardy.

10. Work to ensure that there is diversity and inclusion in NFL ownership. More owners of color and women.

In the meantime, let us continue to support the players who are protesting and showing that athletes are more than athletes, but agents of social justice. We stand and kneel with you.

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