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Let’s take a knee on the NFL

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The NFL’s treatment of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes it from being underhanded and conniving to being outright racist. (Stan Olszewski/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)
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It’s important that I preface this column by letting you know that I’m basically sports agnostic. I’ll watch a game if it’s on in front of me, but I don’t really care who wins or loses.

I think it’s exciting when the Warriors win the NBA championship and I think it’s frightening when people burn Muni buses when the Giants win the World Series. As a bartender, I love when our teams are in the playoffs because my fellow barkeeps and I make stupid money for a few weeks. But if all professional sports ended tomorrow, I’d just shrug and go on with my life.

I nearly boycott the NFL every year, simply by accident, so this year won’t change much for me. But since I’m about to ask you to boycott the NFL, too, I want to acknowledge how much it means to many of you: I’m sorry something that brings you so much joy (or pain, depending on how your team fares) is such a rotten, manipulative and racist organization.

Let’s be honest, from suppressing research surrounding the brain damage many players leave the league with to not paying taxes on its billions of dollars of profit because it passed itself off as “nonprofit” until 2015, the NFL has always been a shady-ass organization. The league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, though, takes it from being underhanded and conniving to outright racist.

There’s a long list of rapists, wife beaters and dog fighters who the NFL has treated with a “boys will be boys” attitude, but Kaepernick’s silent protest against police violence was somehow enough to get him blackballed from the league completely.

Let that sink in: There’s video of Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend out, and the NFL’s initial reaction was a two-game suspension. Michael Vick went to jail for running a dog-fighting ring — in fact, he spent more time in jail than the police officer convicted of killing Oscar Grant, but that’s another story — and he came back to the league as a starting quarterback. But Kaepernick’s decision to not rise for the national anthem gets him effectively kicked out of the NFL.

Even if you don’t agree with his actions, you can’t say it’s fair. And don’t give me that shit about it being based on his performance or skill as a player. As the Guardian UK points out, “there are still 11 current starting QBs in the league who are objectively worse than Kaepernick” and that, judging by statistics, he is “is currently better than a third of the starting QBs in the league.” 

As Shaun King, the activist and journalist who initially called for the NFL boycott, notes: All of the NFL team owners are white, and at least seven of them gave $1 million or more to Donald Trump’s campaign. King goes on to say, “These white men hate Colin, like Donald Trump hates Colin, and like Trump hates Obama, because they cannot believe a black man stepped into power without their permission.” 

I love you Bay Area. I love you like you love your sports teams. And one of the main reasons I love you is because one of our core values is sticking up for people who can’t always stick up for themselves. That is exactly what Kaepernick was doing when took a knee and exactly why we should have his back. Because police violence against black and brown people is real, and it’s heartbreaking and terrifying. Just ask Michael Bennett.

Here is my ask: Will you join me and thousands of others in boycotting the NFL?

You can’t call Muhammad Ali a hero for boycotting the Vietnam War and not support Kaepernick.

You can’t look with admiration at the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics and not see the importance of Kaepernick’s silent and peaceful protest.

What we do with our money matters, and nothing angers billionaires more than when you stop giving them yours.
So stop doing it. Don’t go to games or watch them on TV. Don’t buy any NFL merchandise. Cancel whatever subscriptions you have that give the NFL money.

I know this sucks and that it might fundamentally change what you do with your Sundays, but think about all the things you will suddenly have time to do instead. Plus, think about how much this will piss off Trump.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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