PHOTO: Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during national anthems may be keeping him out of a job so far this offseason. THEARON W. HENDERSON / GETTY IMAGES
by Tyler Tynes
NEW YORK — Four days before an evening filled with protest, when 1,000 people gathered in front of NFL headquarters in New York City to show their support for Colin Kaepernick, their voices rising over the screams of “commies” coming from counter-protestors, one man, just 20 miles south, wanted to deliver a message from God.
As Pastor Stephen Green addressed his congregation in tiny Roselle, N.J., on Sunday, he traded his typical religious garments for a scarlet No. 7 jersey.
In speaking about Kaepernick, whose protest, which began a year ago, has led to the quarterback being exiled from the NFL, Green read from the Book of Luke.
“Out of the abundance of the heart,” Green said, “the mouth speaks.”
The NFL’s silence showed its heart, Green said. It showed it valued compliance above all else. It showed it would allow one man’s advocacy to result in his unemployment. Something had to change so that Kaepernick’s plight didn’t go unnoticed, but also so that this never happened again.
Then, Green crescendoed.
“God has called on the church to renew the heart of this nation,” he said. “Because a nation that God has given so much to ought not be able to treat God’s people like this.”
Between the hums of the organ and baps of tambourines, Green roared for much of the 17-minute sermon, his body, at times, writhing and twitching to match the homily. He spoke passionately about Kaepernick and what was to come later that week: the gathering of hundreds to rally and protest the quarterback’s unemployment in front of the NFL.
Kaepernick’s first kneel, one year ago this week, has aged since then. On Wednesday, Green and others gathered across from the NFL’s headquarters to send a clear message to the league: These people, these protests, are not going away.
What it also showed was a possible look at the future of the NFL. It has been a year since Kaepernick’s protest, and things are only ramping up. Every week there are more protests. There will be no normalcy, no apolitical football. In all the ways that Wednesday’s protest was about Kaepernick, it was also bigger than him. He’s now a symbol. What he started is sweeping the field.
“The NFL must understand that they cannot put a stop to this movement,” Green said. “There is something very powerful about players from every ethnicity joining this moment. Despite the blackballing that Kaepernick is facing, other players are willing to risk their livelihoods to exert their moral consciousness.
“This is only the beginning.”