NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of supporters of Colin Kaepernick rallied in front of NFL headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Multiple organizations were involved in the protest, including the Justice League NYC and the Empowerment Movement.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant talked to the hundreds who came out – many in Kaepernick jerseys. They stood on the four levels of steps in front of the NFL Headquarters.
“So that Kaepernick knows he’s not by himself, everybody who’s here standing with us, make some noise now,” Bryant said.
The rally was held to pressure the NFL to get Kaepernick a job.
Bryant said the NFL owners have blackballed the former 49ers quarterback because of his social justice protest last season of kneeling during the national anthem.
“They do not mind if black players get a concussion. They’ve just got a problem if they get a conscience,” Bryant said.
Political commentator Symone Sanders was quoted by the Associated Press, “We are all standing with Kaepernick. It is time for the NFL to put up or shut up.”
The NAACP and other civil rights groups have requested to sit down and talk with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the free speech rights of players. Speakers here say that request has been denied.
Meanwhile, a sports legend also rushed to the unemployed quarterback’s defense.
Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron says he believes Kaepernick is “getting a raw deal.”
Kaepernick is still a free agent, and some believe that has everything to do with the former 49er’s controversial decision last season to kneel during the national anthem while he protested racial oppression and police brutality in the U.S.
“I don’t think anybody can do the things he could do,” Aaron told Roland Martin of the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Show.” “I wish somebody would open up and give him a chance,” Aaron told Roland Martin of the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
Aaron said he will not watch the upcoming NFL season because he’s angry about how Kaepernick has been treated.
“I’d love to see some other players stand up. I think it would help him,” added Aaron, who received death threats and hate mail as he chased Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1973 and 1974.
Both this season and last, Kaepernick has inspired other NFL players to join in the protest. In Monday night’s preseason game against the Giants, several members of the Cleveland Browns kneeled in a circle during the anthem. The Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins are among the other players who have participated in the silent protest.
The Wednesday protest was not the first protest supporting Kaepernick, 29, at NFL headquarters this year. In May, the group 100 Suits for 100 Men, which works with parolees who are trying to re-enter the workforce, held a show of solidarity for Kaepernick. Kevin Livingston, the group’s president, said he wanted to help Kaepernick after the former 49ers quarterback donated 50 suits to help parolees on job interviews.
Numerous other rallies were held the same day across the country.
The 49ers selected Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft. A year later, he led San Francisco to the Super Bowl. But the once-promising star has struggled over the past two seasons, being yanked in and out of the lineup and going just 3-16 as a starter. In March, he opted out of his contract, which would have paid him $14.5 million this season.
Kaepernick, 29, said through his representatives this offseason that he doesn’t plan to continue kneeling during the anthem.
While it’s impossible to definitively say whether Kaepernick’s political views or his inconsistent play — or a combination of the two — are the reason he has yet to sign with a team, Giants co-owner John Mara did provide a glimpse in May into the potential backlash teams might face, telling TheMMQB.com that fans wrote to the team threatening to boycott if Kaepernick were signed.
“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game.’ It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”
Mara said the Giants never discussed signing Kaepernick because they were more focused on finding a potential long-term successor to Eli Manning.