Happy Colin Kaepernick Day
Tonight I will sleep well.
The game will be starting soon. The parties will be starting soon. The commercials will be starting soon. Someone will be singing the anthem and soon thereafter someone will be singing at halftime. Some call this Sunday in February, Super. I don’t. For me it’s #ColinKaepernick Day.
For me, there will be no game or parties or commercials or anthem or even a halftime concert. Life is about choices. I could choose to watch the game or I could choose to sleep well tonight. I’ll choose the latter. Because for me, I can’t choose both. I can’t reconcile my disdain for a league that blackballed a Black man who elevated awareness of Black abuse while simultaneously celebrating that league’s signature game that I refuse to call Super.
I used to call it Super. I used to love the NFL. When I could barely walk and talk, I knew I had a cousin who played for the Raiders. Even before I met him, he was my favorite player on my favorite team in my favorite sport. My second favorite team would be any team with a Black quarterback. Then, Black quarterbacks were rare so for much of my youth, I had no second favorite team. Eventually we moved from New Orleans to Atlanta and the Falcons became my team.
I didn’t know it at the time but the last game I watched would be the last game I’d ever watch.
I guess tonight’s game has started by now. Someone has flipped a coin. Someone has called Heads or Tails. Someone has kicked the ball. I can’t help but think of that last game I watched. It was a Sunday in February in 2017, in another game some called Super. The team that called themselves, the Patriots, were playing the team that I called mine, the Falcons. My team led for much of the game but they found a way to lose it at the end.
I was crushed or so I thought. I was demoralized or so I thought. I felt like I had been shot. But instead, the bang I heard and thought I felt was merely the sound of a blank. That gun had no real bullets. The pain of my team losing was superficial. The real wound was soon to come.
#TrayvonMartin and #SandraBland and #TamirRice and #EricGarner and countless other Black men and Black women and Black children became Black bodies and Black hashtags and soon Black afterthoughts. And when the criminal justice system spared their killers, it became clear, in the eyes of the criminal justice system, Black victims of Blue violence didn’t matter. It became clear that justice in America was neither color blind nor color kind.
In Colin Kaepernick’s first full year as a starter, he took his team to the playoffs. In his second, he took them to that game that even I called Super. He was one play away from winning it. If only he could get another chance. He never will. He will never play another play in the NFL simply because he knelt in peaceful protest of America’s disregard of black bodies.
I have not watched an NFL game since that February in 2017. I have never seen Lamar Jackson elude a blitz. I have never seen Patrick Mahomes throw a no-look pass. I have never seen Deshaun Watson lead a come from behind victory. Unlike in my youth, the League is filled with Black quarterbacks. I wish them well but I can’t watch.
The cost of watching is too high. The cost is much more than some of my time. The cost is some of my soul. The NFL blackballed a Black man who elevated awareness of Black abuse. When Ali refused to go to Vietnam, he said that the Viet Cong never called him a nigger. White America was his opposer. The NFL is Colin Kaepernick’s opposer.
They told him to shut up and play. They may as well had called him a nigger. They may as well had called me a nigger. At least that’s how it sounded and felt to me. That was no blank. That gun was loaded. That bullet was real. That wound penetrated. It penetrated deeply. I’m still wounded. I can’t watch the NFL without bleeding. I’m no masochist. I won’t watch. I can’t watch.
I will miss the parties, to the extent that Covid allows, and I will miss the commercials and I will miss the anthem and the halftime concert. I will miss the game in its entirety. But I will keep my soul in its entirety. I will keep far more than I will miss.
While my family and friends gather around TVs watching that game I’m certain they’ll call Super, I’ll spend my time less costly. I don’t fault them for spending their time as they choose. I’ll however make a different choice with mine. Perhaps I’ll watch paint dry. Perhaps I’ll watch nails grow. Perhaps I’ll search for words to put on paper so they will understand why for me, today’s game will be neither Super nor seen yet tonight’s celebration will be even greater.
Tonight I will sleep well.