The “Boycott NFL” Hashtag Gets It Right, But Not Because Of The National Anthem
Americans are very mad. They're mad that the 2016 football season didn't get off to its usual start. They're mad because some players are making a point of protesting racism in the United States by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem at the start of each game. Some Americans are so angered by the start of this season that they've taken to Twitter with the hashtag #BoycottNFL. However, "Boycott NFL" misses the reason you should be mad at the football organization.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to take a seat this year during the national anthem as the preseason was underway. In an interview, Kaepernick told NFL Media, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. ... There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." Since Kaepernick's decision to now kneel during the national anthem until he sees change, he has been joined by other NFL players, namely his teammate Eric Reid, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, and most recently Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who took a knee during the team's season-opening game on Sept. 8.
Many people have expressed discomfort and outrage over NFL players taking a seat during the national anthem. Some have burned Kaepernick's jersey in response and suggested he leave the country if he's not happy. Now, people are taking to Twitter to suggest a boycott of the NFL. But where were these calls for a boycott over NFL players' widespread cases of sexual and physical violence?
Kaepernick's refusal to stand during the national anthem comes as a protest to widespread racialized police violence across the country. According to the Guardian's data on U.S. police killings, black Americans are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than white Americans — and these officers most often get away with doing so. Black Americans also make up almost half of the total population of incarcerated Americans, according to the NAACP. This is so important to keep in mind, especially because African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the total U.S. population. So why are Americans so angry about Kaepernick's peaceful protest against systemic racism? And why were they not angry over the NFL's problems with sexual and physical violence?
Well, racism and misogyny can be intersectional. Just like many Americans might believe that the country is post-racism, the patriarchal structures of American society also devalue the lives and experiences of women. According to RAINN, Americans are sexually assaulted every two minutes, and 90 percent of victims are female. Similarly, nearly 20 people experience physical abuse from a romantic partner every minute and 85 percent of victims are women.
This is a huge problem within the NFL as an organization. Vice's Broadly.com reported in 2015 that 44 NFL players had been accused of sexual or physical violence. And often when players are accused of such violence, they get off pretty easily — for instance, a four-game suspension. Sure, NFL players are arrested at a lower rate than the general population — FiveThirtyEight suggests this is due to affluence among NFL players — but the most common arrests of NFL players are for cases of domestic violence, closely followed by sexual offenses.
The calls for a NFL boycott totally miss the mark. The fact that Americans are so outraged by these players using their status to protest racism, while they didn't express similar outrage over the rates of gendered violence within the industry is telling.
So where are the fans boycotting the NFL for sexual and physical assault? I'll wait.