by Jason Reid
NEW YORK — An energetic crowd here Wednesday evening cheered on Colin Kaepernick, providing its support for the unemployed NFL player who risked his lucrative career and became the face of a new civil rights movement in the process.
The NFL headquarters at 345 Park Ave. became a gathering point for protesters frustrated that the accomplished passer, who did not participate in the United We Stand Rally for Colin Kaepernick, is still looking for work after his peaceful and impactful political protest last season while he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. With Kaepernick jerseys visible throughout the sprawling group, attendees held signs mostly praising Kaepernick’s efforts on behalf of black and brown people — as well as some calling for a boycott of the league until the veteran player gets back in the game.
Protesters listened attentively to speakers on the front line of the battle for justice and racial equality, who alternately railed against the NFL for its perceived mistreatment of Kaepernick and the growing racial divisiveness in the U.S. At times, members of the program, which ran about 90 minutes, led the crowd in chants to back Kaepernick.
The rally’s organizers beamed about the turnout — some planners estimated the crowd size at more than 1,500 — and vowed to continue applying pressure to keep Kaepernick’s job search in the news. There were no significant incidents of unrest, according to members of the New York Police Department.
The day, however, wasn’t a complete success for the 20 organizing partners.
After sending a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell outlining major changes they sought in league policy regarding player advocacy and racial equality, organizers had hoped to meet with high-ranking NFL officials before the rally. The meeting did not occur. The activists’ response to the NFL was clear: Onward.
“It is a disappointment that the NFL declined to meet with members of the coalition,” said political strategist and CNN commentator Symone D. Sanders, one of the rally’s organizing partners. “We believe that the coalition that we’ve assembled, and the requests that we have put forth, bear a certain level of magnitude and merit that deserve to be heard and deserve an actual meeting. We’ll keep working to make that happen.”