A rally for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick brought hundreds to the National Football League’s NYC headquarters on Wednesday, ESPN reports. Kaepernick has not yet signed to a team weeks ahead of the season, despite bringing the 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl.
Kaepernick’s supporters believe he was blackballed by the league for kneeling during the national anthem last year. At the time, Kaepernick said his refusal to stand was in protest to police brutality against African Americans in the United States. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said after that game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory echoed Kaepernick’s remarks at the rally, saying, “I don’t care how long you’ve been watching football, they don’t stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off.”
The Rev. Jamal Bryant called out the NFL for mistreating its players, per ESPN. “The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if black players get a concussion. They just got a problem if black players get a conscience … 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.”
According to ESPN, NAACP officials reportedly called for a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell the day of the rally to discuss Kaepernick’s status. Goodell said the league is not blackballing Kaepernick.