Colin Kaepernick
**FILE** Colin Kaepernick (Courtesy photo)

I’m ready to boycott the NFL. I’ve got many good reasons. The treatment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick by all the NFL teams is at the top of my list.

Major league sports in this country are ruled from the sidelines by “Little Men With Cigars,” who preside over a plantation system where super athletes torture one another to win obscene amounts of money. The National Football League (NFL) is the most entertaining of this country’s sports enterprises.

So, I don’t like these Little Men With Cigars — who are often gamblers, vice lords — manipulating the players and the game in the first place. Even though I’m resolute about sports again, I am thankful to guys like that — named Ira, and Ralph, and Mort — for my personal salvation from “street life,” via high school sports journalism.

But then, I might have been on the road to Damascus, on the first day of a journalism class at San Jose State University, Dr. Dwight Bentel, journalism department chair, was giving his standard opening lecture about why he was no longer a sports reporter.

“There’s never anything new,” he said. The outcome this year in a sports event was being decided by the last competitive event, just as it had been decided the year before, and the year before that.

So I became another kind of a journalist (other than a sports journalist) right then and there, in that classroom. Thanks to journalism, I was later to make common cause with Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and even Dr. Harry Edwards, some of the most influential black athletic champions of the 20th century.

In Washington, a decade or so later, I fell into fandom, perhaps as a distraction from Reaganism all around, and by a good local professional football and a good basketball team, and lots of big-time college sports. I never got to wearing team paraphernalia, but I was close. Just a local fan.

Then came 1992, the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage and Native American groups protested the local NFL team’s racist nickname and logo. I had more reasons to not like the local D.C. team — the last in the NFL to choose a black player.

A succession of Washington team owners has been belligerent about the name — like little guys with cigars tend to be in such cases. And now finally, the Supreme Court has found in favor of patents for offensive speech-names, in a case brought by a West Coast Asian group calling itself the “Slants.”

So now, there’s Kaepernick, who deserves a chance to play, just like Muhammad Ali deserved a chance to fight. Those scoundrels with their cigars in smoke-filled rooms making life-and-death decisions and the public is resigned to go along. Not me. Not this time.

I’m not going to watch any NFL football, like an obsession, have a favorite team, this year. It’s about “market share,” that is the portion of viewers watching pro football. In order for black voices to be heard, the NFL’s market share, its viewing audience must be affected by black discontent. Share the pain!

Now as for Kaepernick, after he eventually gets back on a team, he must declare victory and end the protest. He can’t go to every game for the rest of his career, drawing attention to himself over appearing to dishonor the national anthem — racist though it may be.

Besides, football is a dangerous contact sport, which leaves thousands and thousands with brain injuries every year.

When I attended John C. Fremont Senior High School in Los Angeles, it was an athletic powerhouse, perpetual city championships in football, basketball, track and field, baseball, and they represented pathways out and up for participating athletes. But athletics was seen as an avenue to academics, the ultimate aim of the education system in those days.

Today, most folks would rather be famous than smart; and would rather be rich than famous. I’m going to try to buck that trend. I will boycott the NFL this season.

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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