Boycotting the NFL Won’t Stop Police Brutality

On the day of the New England Patriots’ first game of the year, a friend asked me if I was going to watch it. I said, “Of course I am,” and he immediately began to lecture me on how I was betraying my people. (He was white, go figure.) As everyone knows—unless you’ve been in the woods without any means of communication—the reason I shouldn’t watch the game or any NFL contest is because of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco QB, who last season during a game kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem and who, for all intents and purposes, has been blacklisted by NFL owners, who won’t sign him.

Not because of the fact that he took a knee but because irate fans have threatened to boycott games if any of them do, and that, boys and girls, will cost revenue. It’s always about the money.

The reason Kaepernick took a knee was to protest and hopefully bring awareness to the fact that police officers are murdering black and brown people without cause, and we all know he’s not making this up. In return for blacklisting, the QB people of color and their allies intend to boycott the NFL; there was even a protest in front of NFL headquarters in New York now that other NFL players, black and white, are speaking out, and, in some cases, they too are taking a knee in support of Kaepernick.

I applaud and support what they’re doing and the way they’re creating awareness of the fact that people, both POCs and poor whites, are being murdered without reason, but for me, it’s not enough. Although I support Colin Kaepernick and the attention his protest has brought, I need to ask myself a question: Would me boycotting the NFL stop cops from randomly killing black and brown people? The answer is sadly, no.

It’s still happening even as we boycott ball games. The sad part is that if Kaepernick were signed tomorrow, the protests would stop, everybody would go back to cheering their favorite team, and we would continue to be killed, unarmed in the street. Oh, we may score a small victory, and cops would hopefully be reigned in.

But we can’t stop there. Not while we know that police killing black and brown people is overt racism partly due to racial profiling among other things. Institutional racism is the major cause. Why? Because, to quote a passage from the book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation,” it “originates in the operation of established and respected forces.” Police officers are established enforcers of the law and are indeed a “respected force.” Think about it: every time a black or brown person is gunned down, the public automatically thinks that the POC must have done something to provoke the officer to shoot and kill him or her—that the black person must have done something wrong.

Whites killed by cops are treated differently by the public. Case in point: the outrage when the woman was shot and killed in Minneapolis. Because of institutional racism, police and the criminal justice system are allowed to discriminate, assault, plant evidence and kill us without consequence because we are seen as less than. And you can apply that attitude to health care, education, housing and just about everything else.

That’s why boycotting and taking a knee isn’t enough. We’ve got to keep going. Gathering over 40,000 people to run a bunch of nazis out of town is one thing. It’s the working to change the racism we live with every single day that’s hard. But it must be done.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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