Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson blasted the NFL on Wednesday for failing to find a role for Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who sparked debate last season with his sideline protest over police violence against African-Americans.
Kaepernick, who is a free agent after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, chose not to stand for the United States national anthem before games last year, instead kneeling with his head bowed.
None of the NFL’s 32 teams were willing to bring the 29-year-old on even as a backup for this season, however, with some conceding that his political stance would be a distraction and a turn-off for some fans.
Jackson said one of the foundational traditions of the U.S. was a protest against taxes and said that had brought about positive changes in the areas of civil and women’s rights.
“Colin Kaepernick kneeled to protest ‘out of control police misconduct’ that led to greater awareness, conversations and actions that in many instances correct these wrongs,” Jackson said in a statement.
“Protests are as American as apple pie, yet now it appears that Mr. Kaepernick is being punished by the NFL, its teams, management and owners for taking a courageous and correct stand,” he said.
Jackson called out New York Giants owner John Mara, who said he would not consider signing Kaepernick due to objections from fans, but signed kicker Josh Brown to a new contract last season even after he was arrested for domestic violence.
The Giants cut Brown in October after he admitted to abusing his wife.
“Mr. Kaepernick has been a model player who has not done anything illegal! There seems to be a double standard in this picture,” Jackson said.
Jackson vowed to protest the quarterback’s exclusion from the league at NFL games.
Kaepernick has said he has no plans to renew his protest during the upcoming season, saying last year’s demonstration succeeded in sparking a dialogue about injustice in America.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities such as Baltimore, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked periodic protests in recent years and prompted the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which Kaepernick supports.
SOURCE: Reuters – Rory Carroll; Editing by Nick Mulvenney