#NoKaepNoNFL, Week 1


A few years ago I started boycotting Wendy’s. While the rest of the fast food industry signed on to the Fair Food Program, an initiative to pay tomato growers who supplied their produce to the industry a fair wage. Instead of signing on to the agreement with the other major fast food suppliers, they began to get their tomatoes from Mexico instead of Florida like the rest of the chains. You can read more about it here.

I love Wendy’s! They are easily my favorite fast food place. Not going there these last three years or so has absolutely sucked. I miss the Baconator. I miss it so bad. And their fries. And their strawberry lemonade in the summertime. God, I’m making myself hungry and angry at the same time. My boycott has seemingly had no effect on Wendy’s corporate behavior. I’ve probably brought more attention to the issue through tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts like this, but I don’t think I’m on Wendy’s radar. I honestly don’t think I ever will. It will take either a larger social movement or increased corporate pressure for them to change. Nevertheless, my boycott continues. Why? Because as much I would like to change the world, it’s more about the kind of person I want to be. I get to make decisions about who gets my time and money. I can’t just enjoy Wendy’s food and ignore their sins. I can’t turn a blind eye. As Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, do better”.

I’ve written year after year about my love for the NFL. I’ve ignored the criminal activity of some of their players, noting that the percentage of NFL players involved in criminal activity mirrors the percentage of the general population. I’ve ignored the creeping influence of a militaristic patriotism that began on this day 16 years ago. I figured it was somewhat unifying. I’ve ignored the violence of the game and its influence on the players. We all make trade-offs in our jobs. Some of us bend our backs sitting at a desk for hours. Musicians get injuries all the time from dedication to their instruments. Many people put themselves in harm’s way for their work, not just police officers and soldiers, but social workers and nurses. Plus, the game is safer than its ever been due to changes in equipment and rules to the detriment of the play on the field. We make compromises for the work we love. The NFL employs huge numbers of African Americans, far more than the Presbyterian Church (USA). Sure all of these might seem like rationalizations (they are), but I was willing to do the mental gymnastics because of the enjoyment I get from the game and the community that forms while watching.

I had to draw the line with the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. I’ll be honest, I might feel completely different about this had Mrs. Clinton won the election, but in Trump’s America, protest is the greatest tool that we have. We have to be able to speak against the evils we see in the world. We have to call police to account for their presence in urban communities. We have to use every platform that we have speak on the issues that affect the most vulnerable in our communities. That Kaep has been treated worse than domestic abusers, rapists, and (alleged) murderers for simply sitting quietly during the national anthem is abhorrent and ridiculous to me. That there was seemingly a concerted effort to keep him out to the league this season even while it was increasingly clear that certain teams could use his skills was beyond disheartening. That the league cared so little about its black fans when it has built its billions on black bodies… yeah…

So, Thursday was opening night and yesterday was the first Sunday of the season. I’m already feeling the NFL’s absence. I watched college football with friends on Saturday. It was fun because of the friends, but the quality of the game is different and I don’t have the long standing emotional attachments. Maybe that will come in time. Instead of rushing home to watch football, I had a meeting at work that went into mid afternoon and then I came home and took a nap. I know from friends’ posts that the Steelers won and that the Patriots lost on Thursday. This would normally be a source of immense joy. Today it all just makes me sad.

Part of my commitment during this time is to draw attention in this space to the work of community activists who are doing amazing grassroots work. Yesterday, I conveniently came across this article. It’s a list of 15 black, female organizers who are not getting the recognition that they deserve. I knew a couple of names, Alicia Garza and Rosa Clemente’s work I’ve heard quite a bit about. (Ms. Clemente almost got me to vote third party this year!) But there are also a lot of women here whose names and work I didn’t know. I would encourage you to take a look at the list and the organizations represented. If someone is near you, find a way to get involved. If they’re not, I’m sure they need funds.

I’m doing this part because people like Antonio Brown, Aaron Rodgers, and TJ Watt don’t need anymore recognition. But the people who are putting their lives on the line everyday to strengthen their communities, those are names we should know. I particularly like this list because it highlights the work that black women are doing and have always done to be the heart and soul of hurting communities. The world would be much better off if we did more listening to black women. I’m also encouraged by the number of Trans* women and Trans* activist on this list as this is a place where much more attention is needed.

It’s week one and there is a football-shaped hole in my heart, but I will use this time and energy to lift up people who I think are true heroes. I’m hoping that will take some of the pain away. I know the NFL probably won’t see this and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care. But this is about the kind of person that I want to be. Right now, I am a person who values activism over entertainment.

3 thoughts on “#NoKaepNoNFL, Week 1

  1. I’ve been thinking about the whole boycott and I watched like two plays this Sunday and felt dirty, so I turned it off. I know that I don’t have the same attachment to the NFL as you, I’m a college guy (Go WVU!!!).

    I was thinking, a la the Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, that it would be a great idea for an owner to sign Kaep, if not for his (obvious) talent, but for the money. Flocks of people would buy his jersey and thus the team’s (putting money in the owner’s pocket). Some would buy in support, some would buy to burn it, but all would by $100+ for the pleasure.

    I don’t know, just thinking “out loud”.

    Also, one last thing, if a team signed Kaep, would your boycott be over?

    1. If a team signed Kaep, I would definitely at least watch that team, but I honestly don’t know anymore. I’d like to see at least some outreach to the fans who are boycotting right now

  2. This is the kind of person I want to be, too, Derrick. I just watched John Oliver’s montage of what the NFL finds acceptable behavior in its players, and I was astounded at the hypocrisy over Kaepernick not being signed. And totally disgusted by the older, and what I thought would be a more mature, Boomer, walking himself in, and out on some football blog somewhere, but really, he’s just an aging, white-guy has-been, who should’ve known better than to offer any perspective at all. I love it when these aged, commentators, rather two-dimensional to begin with, get all self-righteous because they think someone disrespected their flag. They think we don’t know that they have to act outraged for the NFL’s board of directors, and the team owners, and the sponsors. Please.

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