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

I still possess a Wheaties box featuring game MVP Doug Williams and his Washington teammates after their 1987 Super Bowl XXII victory. I still have a football signed by placekicker Mark Moseley. I was a sincere football fan.

But then in 1992 — the 500th anniversary year of the catastrophic European invasion of North America, led by Christopher Columbus — Native Americans protested at every home game of the Washington NFL franchise because its nickname is a dictionary-defined racial slur. The Washington team won the Super Bowl that year. That was the last great year for the squad.

Since then, the battle over the name has winded its way through the courts with the Supreme Court ruling last year that using disgusting, racial epithets for a team name was “free speech,” protected by the Constitution, and therefore can remain. After that, I sealed my contempt for the team, its owner and its fans, and lost interest in the sport overall.

Then Colin Kaepernick stepped on the stage and took a knee to protest the wicked treatment inflicted on innocent Black folks by vicious White cops, enforcing the rule of a wicked White society. Donald J. Trump was elected president, and he was able to flip that script, protesting the protests and turning the sycophantic NFL team owners into plantation bosses demanding gleeful obedience and loyalty from the Black players, the way slave masters expected their human property to be docile, content and happy with their circumstances.

Trump referred to the mostly Black (70 percent of the NFL rosters) players as “sons of b—–s” and even questioning whether they should remain in this country. That’s enough for me.

Last season, I never watched an entire regular season or playoff game. There had been calls for a Black boycott of the NFL over the unforgivable treatment accorded to Kaepernick, but it didn’t really materialize. This year there is more boycott talk.

The threat to the NFL is that each year, going forward, instead of gaining new and younger fans, the league is losing some of its older and most loyal fan base, Black folks and, in addition, with more and more concerns about safety, causing more and more parents to keep more and more children from playing football, each year the game is losing precious “market share” — that is, the percentage of viewers enjoying the NFL “brand” each week.

The NFL owners, a coterie of 32 super-rich White dudes, don’t get it. They think their loyal Black TV viewers (the network TV revenue is split between all the teams, guaranteeing huge profits, even to the worst performers) will stick with them forever, no matter how badly they behave.

So now the players have been warned: no more on-field, kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem before the games. I’ll read about what happens next season because once again, I will not be watching.

One thing I don’t understand, however: where are the White players of conscience on this subject? In other sports, including mostly White volleyball, some White players took a knee in solidarity with the protests begun by Kaepernick. And going back in sports history, even the days when baseball was a White man’s game, players have in unison and individually taken a knee to protest one injustice or another.

You mean to tell me that White football players are not aware of rampant police brutality and mistreatment of Black folks in the streets daily? If they see it, does their silence signal they approve, and that their black teammates are not really “like family” as the teams all like to profess, because some black players are certainly distressed.

Tim Tebow, the overtly evangelical White quarterback drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010 and nicknamed “The Mile High Messiah,” took a knee back in the early part of this decade to protest the practice of abortion. There were no recriminations or league-wide policies after those incidents.

There is an unsavory corruption that encompasses all athletics. Look at the rampant sexual abuse of young female gymnasts by medical staff. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing was happening in swimming, lacrosse or wherever anxious, vulnerable young girls and boys are left in the hands of corrupt “owners” and managers and officials.

And then there are the team cheerleaders, some of whom recently complained about being “pimped out” by team managers for the entertainment of wealthy team supporters.

Bribery is rampant in the selection of major “amateur” sports competition sites. It’s a corrupt industry, whose major attraction for me is that it’s live, unscripted and usually determined by athletic prowess demonstrated on the field, while the game (competition) is taking place. But no more.

So I (and I suspect tens of thousands of other Black folks angry about the “optics” of this “kneeling problem” facing the NFL) won’t be watching the games in 2018, and as other Black folks join the boycott, the sport will fade from its Sunday supremacy.

Me, I’m saying: “Bye-bye to the late, great NFL.”

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Askia Muhammad

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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