N**gers for Lease.
Last August, Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett told ESPN that the aforementioned words were more fitting descriptors for the NFL acronym than the National Football League. As we’ve recently witnessed, all 32 team owners in the league — where black athletes make up 70 percent of players — apathetically turn their backs on Colin Kaepernick for peacefully protesting the murders of unarmed black men by police, it’s increasingly evident that Bennett may have been on to something.
On Wednesday, civil rights activists, religious leaders and politicians gathered on a stage outside of NFL headquarters on Manhattan’s Park Ave. The United We Stand rally, initiated by filmmaker and activist, Spike Lee, attracted a crowd of more than 1,000 indignant about the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s continued unemployment.
“Colin fought for us so now we have his back,” 23-year-old Anthony Davis, Jr., who is with the youth division of the NAACP told EBONY prior to the protest. “We won’t allow these NFL owners to victimize him and make it seem as though he’s done something wrong when all he did was stand up for what is right.”
“His issue now is not just a black issue,” Davis continued. “This message is being sent from owners: stay in your place.”
Rapper Mysonne set the tone for the rally by leading the energized throng with chants of “stay woke.”
After James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was recited to ascending floods of black power fists, the mic was passed on to speakers ready to read the NFL for all its greed and illustrate why the night’s conglomeration was about more than one man’s contract. Former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Symone Sanders, Women’s March co-chairs Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour and former NAACP President Cornell Brooks later led the night’s memorably poignant speeches.
“The NFL just like the NYPD cannot police themselves,” Mallory said to the crowd of supporters which included rapper Kurtis Blow, actress Susan Sarandon and reality star Yandy Smith.
“I don’t care how long you’ve been watching football. If they don’t stand up for your children, turn the damn game off,” the impassioned activist continued. “We cannot continue to have our backs bent over while white people stand on top of us.”
Throughout their speeches, some of the activists took a moment to address the NFL executives who were likely watching the protest from their window.
“If you would just look up on the eighth floor,” Reverend Stephen Green said. “The NFL is still meeting and watching us down here.”
If NFL bigwigs didn’t decline multiple requests for meetings from the numerous civil rights organizations represented on the stage — including the National Action Network where Mallory serves Executive Director — the rally may not have been necessary.
“[The NFL] does not mind if black players get a concussion. They have a problem when they get a conscience,” Pastor Jamal Bryant said. “The real eclipse was on Wednesday because black and brown people are unified to take the light out of the NFL.”
If Kaepernick isn’t signed by the commencement of football season on September 7, the NFL isn’t the only major company these activists are coming for.
When Linda Sarsour took the stage, she made it apparent that if Kaepernick remained unsigned by the 7th, Verizon would need to pull out from their deal with the league or face impending boycott. Sarsour not only provided the digits for one of Verizon’s customer service representatives, but also instructed everyone to tweet at one of the NFL’s largest sponsors with #CanYouHearUsNow.
“Ask Verizon … are you going to stand with Kaepernick? Are you going to stand with black people? Brown people? We want Verizon to take a stand and tell us what side they’re on,” Sarsour said. “They only speak one language,” Sarsour said to the crowd, referring to the NFL execs upstairs, “and the language is money.”
Before the rally came to a close, the night’s final speaker former NAACP President Dr. Cornell Brooks reminded everyone once more why the demonstration was bigger than Kaepernick.
“It’s not about one player,” Brooks said. “It’s about all your people not getting played.”