Sports

Colin Kaepernick Calls Out NFL For “Propaganda” As League Pushes Social Justice

Kaepernick accused the league of “blackballing” former teammate Eric Reid, who first joined him in kneeling protests during the national anthem back in 2016.

AP Images | In this Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.
AP Images | In this Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.

Colin Kaepernick blasted the NFL on Sunday for running “propaganda” after the league launched a season-long brand campaign ahead of opening weekend dedicated to social justice.

“While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about Black Life, they are still actively blackballing Eric Reid for fighting for the Black community,” Kaepernick, a free agent and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback wrote. “Eric set 2 franchise records last year, and is one of the best defensive players in the league.”

Kaepernick’s kneeling protests during the national anthem began four years ago, igniting a conversation about race, police brutality, and sports in America. He set a precedent for this year’s wave of anti-racism protests across major sports leagues and American cities in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

In 2016, Reid, a then-49ers safety, joined Kaepernick in the protests, and he continued to kneel during the national anthem last year. 

This season, Reid, 28, is unemployed, despite appearing on a slew of lists ranking the best-available free agents in sports, including ESPN.

“Like Kaepernick, Reid is being blackballed for wanting killer cops to stop getting away with murder, amongst other similarly outrageous things,” Chuck Modiano wrote in a Deadspin post published Saturday.

Both Reid and Kaepernick are featured in a video by the NFL that features “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black national anthem.” 

The league also had phrases such as “End Racism” and “It Takes All Of Us” painted in the end zones at the Kansas City Chiefs’ home opener last week, where players for the Chiefs and Houston Texans silently linked arms for a “Moment of Unity.” 

The stadium held about 17,000 fans, many of whom expressed their disapproval of the moment of silence designed to acknowledge the ongoing fight for equality and racial justice in the U.S. 
 

During the NFL’s opening weekend Sept. 12-13, players from teams including the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings kneeled during the national anthem. The family of George Floyd also attended the Vikings’ season-opener game and were recognized. 

Other teams including the Miami Dolphins opted to stay in the locker room while the stadium played the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” 

“This attempt to unify only creates more divide. So we’ll skip this song and dance, and as a team, we’ll stay inside,” a group of players said in a video.

While conversations continue about the most effective ways to address systemic racism and whether the NFL is paying lip service without meaningful action, the change in programming is notable.

The Fox NFL Sunday pregame show featured a panel of commentators discussing the racial justice protests. Howie Long, a sports analyst and former NFL player who is white, said he has come to understand Kaepernick’s perspective more.

“Four years ago, most folks across the country missed the message and maybe the meaning when Colin Kaepernick took a knee,” Long said, according to the Washington Post. “I’m a guy who played 13 years in the NFL, in locker rooms that were predominantly Black, which gave me what I thought was a unique perspective that most white people don’t get. I’m embarrassed to say that the very first time Colin took a knee I wondered why during the national anthem because for someone who looks like me this is the greatest country on earth. But for the last 400 years that hasn’t been the reality for Black Americans.”