*Believing Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the NFL over his national anthem protests, hundreds of demonstrators descended upon the league’s Manhattan headquarters Wednesday evening to support the former quarterback and call for a boycott of NFL games.
Despite taking his San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, Kaepernick has yet to be signed by an NFL team ahead of the 2017 season. His supporters believe the reason is the political stance he chose to take rather than his ability to play the game.
“We are here because we believe that Colin Kaepernick, deserves a job,” said Democratic strategist and political commentator Symone Sanders at the start of at the “United We Stand” rally. “And we also believe that the Nation Football League has been complicit in the [ostracizing] of Colin Kaepranick and today it’s time for the NFL to take a stand.”
Many in the large crowd wore Kaepernick jerseys and some held “Black Lives Matter” signs.
“We know that Kaep has been taking a knee for reverence and the memory of those who have lost their lives to the police, others are now taking a knee and sitting down for all the victims of white supremacy and white nationalism — even white players are doing it now,” reverend and radio host Mark Thompson told NBC News at the Manhattan rally.
Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract in March and with the NFL pre-season underway, protests have continued in his absence. On Monday, about a dozen Cleveland Browns players knelt and prayed in silent protest during the national anthem — including one white player, Seth DeValve.
View the AP’s recap of the rally below:
Earlier Wednesday, the NAACP sent a letter calling for a meeting with the NFL to discuss the issue of free speech and Kaepernick’s position in the debate. Sanders said at the rally that the NFL declined the meeting.
“Last season, Mr. Kaepernick chose to exercise his first amendment right by protesting the inequitable treatment of people of color in America,” said NAACP interim President and CEO Derrick Johnson in the letter. “By quietly taking a knee during the national anthem, he was able to shine a light on the many injustices faced by people of color, particularly the issue of police misconduct toward communities of color.”
Johnson wrote that it was becoming clear it was “no sheer coincidence” that Kaepernick was not yet signed to a team.
“No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech – to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the NFL’s own regulations,” he wrote.
NAACP national board member and New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes said at the rally they wanted “send a clear signal” and making money off of players, “it’s about respect for our communities and especially for our black brothers, when 70 percent of your players are African Americans.”
“We’re standing today for his rights,” she said of Kaepernick.
View more footage from the protest outside NFL headquarters below: