Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane D. Williams has criticized the National Football League’s (NFL) latest stance on kneeling by football players, saying that the league’s intention is to “smother protest and strangle activism.”
The NFL announced on May 23 that players will not longer be permitted to kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem.
“By forcing players to stand for the national anthem while on the field, and relegating those who chose to protest during the anthem to the locker room, they are effectively creating another [way of], hiding dissenting voices from the public eye to maintain their own corporate interest and public image,” said Williams, representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.
“With this action, the NFL has made its intentions clear and revealed the character of the organization,” he added. “They have given in to hateful voices who responded to peaceful protest with vitriol and misinformation.
“At best, they ignore the crucial issues of police misconduct and racial inequity for which players engaged in protest; at worst, they endorse them,” continued Williams, a candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor. “This is unsurprising from an organization that routinely seeks to bury anything that they feel is bad for business, and views its players as commodities rather than individuals.”
Williams said he stands with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and with all players who choose to take a knee in exercising his right to free speech and non-violent protest.
He noted that Kaepernick has ignited a movement, adding that he has joined Nelson Mandela and other heroes in receiving Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award.
“This movement extends far beyond Kaepernick himself, and forces the country to acknowledge and address the daily injustices of police misconduct and racial bias,” Williams said. “It cannot be ignored that the NFL’s ruling was established mere hours before the nation saw video of another black athlete, Sterling Brown, inexplicably abused and attacked at the hands of Milwaukee police.”
The New York legislator said such instances are “pervasive and disturbing, whether for a well-known athlete or the many more with less prominent profiles and less national outrage.
“Athletes who choose to kneel perform the vital duty of ensuring that these systemic injustices do not fade from the public consciousness,” he said. “Disruption is essential to protest, and neither the actions of player protest nor the issues for which they kneel can be hidden away.”