In June I wrote about how I’m not watching the NFL until Colin Kaepernick is signed to a team. I included these two sentences at the end of the article:
Maybe it’s too late and I dropped the ball by not turning my back on the NFL before. I should probably feel ashamed of myself for continuing to support an organization that has continued to re-sign players who beat women and children.
I didn’t think much about those lines when I wrote them but they’ve haunted me since. Why didn’t I stop watching football before Colin Kaepernick was exiled from the sport? The answer is simple: I’m a man who is living in and perpetuating misogyny and ignoring how the NFL has treated women is just another example of me indulging in sexist violence. There’s no other way around it and my realization of the fact has been on my mind for months. Especially as I see more and more black men pat themselves on the backs for making the grave sacrifice of not spending 12 hours a week watching men ram their brains into one another.
The fact is, there’s not much admirable about waiting until 2017 to boycott the NFL. Because waiting until 2017 means we watched football after we saw Ray Rice knock a black woman unconscious on an elevator and only get suspended two games. It means we watched football when Goodell made Janay Rice answer questions about her abuse while sitting inches away from her abuser. We watched football after Greg Hardy was allowed back into the league. We watched football after the league continued to fine players who wanted to wear special cleats to honor breast cancer and domestic abuse survivors. The NFL doesn’t care about women, especially black women and we supported them throughout. We. You. Me. Us.
I can’t get over the fact that I waited for the NFL to wrong a black man before stepping away. All I did was become another cog in the machine that only sees black oppression as black male oppression. Who only sees black liberation as liberation for black men. I became part of the reason black women have to remind us to #SayHerName or why nobody gives a s*** about dead black trans people. So when I see black men call other black men for being weak for not boycotting the NFL for Kaepernick, I wonder how many of us realize our own weakness for not boycotting the NFL for Janay Rice.
The hypocrisy runs further because some of these same men rallying behind Kaepernick had no problem hosting fight parties to line the pockets of a perpetual abuser of black women, Floyd Mayweather. It’s an old saying but one that bears repeating: black people aren’t free until all black people are free. As a man, I have to remind myself of that fact while I’m participating in misogyny every single day.
I have to do better. I have to be better.
I’ve had people ask me if I judge them or feel offended that they are choosing to watch the NFL while I’m boycotting. They generally assume I think lesser of them for continuing to support the NFL after it has clearly blackballed a man for simply standing up for black people’s rights. But I honestly can’t judge anyone else for still watching in 2017. I’m not going to sit here and act high and mighty over anyone who still watches now. It’s not my place. Because I was sitting there with everyone else watching abusers and rapists make millions without a second thought. I’m not going to judge anyone for weaponizing the cognitive dissonance it takes to continue to support the NFL because I used the same mental gymnastics to watch last year, and the year before that…and the year before that.
Not watching the NFL in 2017 doesn’t make me feel any more “woke” than anyone else. In fact, the opposite is true. I don’t feel any pride by not watching football in 2017. Just shame I didn’t do it sooner.