How The NFL Gentrified A Black Man's Protest

The league has mobilized to blunt the power of its protesting players
Colin Kaepernick’s protest is being rebranded to appease the sensitive palates of culturally insensitive Americans.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest is being rebranded to appease the sensitive palates of culturally insensitive Americans.

Gentrification, according to the dictionary, is defined as “the process of conforming to an upper- or middle-class lifestyle, or of making a product, activity, etc., appealing to those with more affluent tastes.” That about sums up what the NFL has done to Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against police brutality. Colin Kaepernick’s protest is being rebranded to appease the sensitive palates of middle-class and culturally insensitive Americans, while simultaneously attempting to undermine the effectiveness of his protest by marginalizing the issues that he set out to address.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

     - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Back in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick began his peaceful protest by sitting for the national anthem, the NFL, most fans, a number of former players and league executives, and most of the greater sports community opposed him and the ideals he stood for. His integrity was challenged and his character was questioned because of his protest. At that time, there wasn’t a single NFL owner who stood by Kaepernick’s side. Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, Robert Kraft, and others ― none of them showed any support for his protest. But after tons of bad press due to Kaepernick’s continued unemployment and the recent attack on Kaepernick by Donald Trump, NFL leadership has now “sided” with Kaepernick. Why the sudden change in course? No NFL Owners, not Shad Khan, or Bob McNair or any of their peers, cared to take a knee or support Colin’s noble cause back in 2016. The entire world was watching when Colin first stood (or rather sat down) to advocate for the marginalized experiences of oppressed people. The NFL didn’t care about his protest then, and they certainly don’t care now. But when arguably the most hated man in America, Donald Trump, attacked athletes for protesting by calling them “sons of bitches,” the NFL saw an opportunity that they couldn’t refuse.

You see, when the NFL conspires to oppose Trump, who is commonly looked upon as the most disliked individual in the country, they benefit by appearing to be on the good side of this situation. The NFL doesn’t want anymore bad press, and they certainly want to eliminate any possible threat of a decrease in their ratings and overall viewership/engagement. But let’s be very clear here, the NFL doesn’t care about Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Their agendas are to project positivity, look progressive in the eyes of casual fans and media outlets, while simultaneously taking the steam out of Kaepernick’s protest by making it more appealing and tasteful to middle class Americans. In a statement issued over the weekend, billionaire owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft had this to say about Trump’s recent comments:

“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.”

Kraft’s words are all too accurate, but these words are nothing more than insufficient funds within the bank of opportunity.

Kraft and other prominent NFL owners have funded Trumps administration and campaign. The divisive rhetoric used to attack protesting athletes is the same divisive rhetoric that Trump used during his 2016 campaign. NFL owners are responsible for aiding the growth and platform of an individual whom they knew had a history of idiotic outburst. So are these 32 NFL Owners really surprised by Trump’s recent comments? I highly doubt the ones who donated millions to him are surprised. I mean, who gives a million dollars to a person without getting a good feel for their character? Oh, I know! The same people who are leading the way in making a protest more refined and tasteful for middle-class Americans, while failing to address the root issues of said protest.

The NFL hasn’t done anything to actually aid Colin Kaepernick’s cause. The league hasn’t donated to his fundraising initiative. They haven’t collaborated with him in an effort to bring awareness to the issues surrounding his protest, and they probably won’t. Because that’s exactly what gentrifiers do. They come into a community that’s already established and take over, while simultaneously displacing those who occupied said space. Only in this instance, instead of literally displacing Colin, they are leaving him in a state of displacement by not signing him to a contract. The next thing on the Gentrifiers list of things to do is redevelop the community they “inhabited.” In the case of the NFL, this means taking a knee and locking arms for a few weeks while simultaneously rebranding the league as a progressive space where diversity and community are valued. That’s a great way to inhabit an issue they previously opposed, and redevelop a new image to fit their agenda. Now all they need to do is put a Connecticut Muffin and a Whole Foods at every stadium, and they’ll be in business.