As NFL players suit up and return to the gridiron, some fans have decided to give up a season of rooting for their home team and favorite players. There will be no draft boards, no kitschy fantasy football team name and definitely no nail-biting, down-to-the-wire wins to celebrate. Instead, they’re gearing up to take on the NFL and team owners in defense of quarterback-activist Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick protested social inequality by kneeling during the national anthem before games last season. He opted out of his San Francisco 49ers contract in March and remains a free agent, with the new season just 23 days away.
Recently, more than 170,000 people signed the “#NoKaepernickNoNFL” petition on Change.org, pledging to boycott the league until Kaepernick is added to a roster. Among the many fans contemplating a protest are women, who make up 45 percent of the NFL’s audience and 34 percent of the fantasy sports market.
Despite playing fantasy football for seven seasons and subscribing to premium NFL television packages, Kimberly Bennett, a 38-year-old attorney and lifelong New York Giants fan, has made the difficult decision to deprive herself of NFL enjoyment. “I feel like my hand was forced,” she said.
She’s not alone. Kellie Hockless, 38, said her avidity for the game started to wane last season. “I can’t even name all of the starting quarterbacks anymore,” the Brooklyn resident said when discussing her lack of enthusiasm for the 2017 season.
Kaepernick’s 2016 protest being misrepresented as anti-American, anti-military and anti-law enforcement along with the NFL’s handling of multiple domestic incidents and lukewarm response to the dangers of concussions turned Hockless off from the game a year ago.
“With each day it becomes more and more evident that this game that we love so much is not good for human beings to play,” she said.
In speaking of her choice to fully boycott the upcoming season if Kaepernick remains unsigned, she said of the NFL, “They don’t care about anything else besides the bottom line. Not human life. Not women. Not black lives — nothing.”
Ohio native and academic adviser Natalie Everett, 38, views the NFL’s shunning of Kaepernick as a pointed message to not just Kaep, but other players, as well. “When a person becomes too outspoken and does more than entertain the masses, usually there’s somebody that comes in and wants to humble them a little bit,” Everett said.
And therein lies the issue for most pro-Kaepernick fans.
photo via Robert Hanahsiro/USA Today