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NEW YORK – It may seem like a harsh reality, but here’s the truth: Colin Kaepernick is not going to have a job in the NFL come Week 1.
But that doesn’t mean he’s a failure.
If there’s any clear message to be taken from the raucous “United We Stand” rally for Colin Kaepernick that took place outside of NFL Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, it’s that his message has been – and will continue to be – heard, regardless of if he ever throws a pass in the league again.
“This will haunt the NFL,” retired offensive lineman Willie Colon told Yahoo Sports. “This man took a stand on issues that are still affecting us.
“Think about what happened [recently] in Charlottesville. He’s kind of planted the seeds and now we’re seeing what he’s talking about. Now America is seeing it. There’s nobody blind to it anymore, we all watched it and now it’s time for us to respond. It’s time for us as Americans, as a culture, to unite.”
The crowd, which the Associated Press estimated as “more than 1,000 people” at the steps of 345 Park Ave., was a diverse group, featuring activists, NFL fans and Kaepernick supporters all advocating for and, to a degree, celebrating his message.
“This is a conversation I’ve been having at home,” Nyasia Brackett, a 19-year-old Kaepernick supporter said. “I consider [Kaepernick’s message] a success up to this point because now we have white players and black players coming together to bring more light to this issue.”
While Kaepernick’s employment, or lack thereof, was the inspiration for the rally, the fact that he was not present, nor has he openly made a plight to be signed by an NFL team, speaks volumes. In fact, earlier on Wednesday, Kaepernick’s team distributed a media release detailing his latest $100,000 charitable donation as part of his commitment to donate $1 million over a 10-month span.
“Not only do you have to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk,” Darius Gordon, a member of Justice League NYC said. “We like to see action. It’s putting power behind not just words, but movement. It creates a role model where they say ‘Hey, I’m not going to be flashy in front of the cameras all of the time. I’m going to be behind the scenes.’”
And while the NFL declined an invitation from the NAACP for a meeting to discuss the First Amendment and Kaepernick, the tide is continuing to swell, including the Cleveland Browns who put on the largest single anthem demonstration this past week.
“It’s a societal issue,” Colon said. “This is a league where a lot of white men are bi-racial fathers and want a better America for their kids. They’re coming together and standing up for the fight, for the cause, they’re not doing it for attention.”
As the rally continued, the focus moved away from Kaepernick and onto where the protesters and organizers hope to really hit the league – its coffers.
In one of the rally’s more confrontational moments, organizers called out the NFL owners and advertisers for donating to President Donald Trump’s election campaign and failing to put money into the inner cities of America.
“If you can give $110 million dollars to Donald Trump, who is committed to dividing our nation, you need to give back into black and brown communities,” Pastor Jamal Bryant, a speaker at the rally, demanded. “In every city that there is an NFL team, we are expecting a financial investment.”
Another overwhelming theme that emanated from the rally and its speakers was a potential boycott of the NFL. At several points, the crowd broke into chants encouraging such actions against the league.
“When it comes down to it, these owners, a lot of these people behind the scenes, are millionaires, billionaires, so when you hurt their pockets, that sends a clear message,” Gordon said.
So while Kaepernick, who was described as being “grateful” for the recent string of rallies and support for him and his message, continues to wait for a call that may never come, he can take solace in the fact that he may have already won.
“If you look at the fact that he started this a year ago and look at how we’re not only still talking about it a year later, but we’re seeing more participation from players using their platform to continue the message,” Gordon said. “The fact that it’s catching fire, it’s exactly what we want.”