At least 75 active and former officers of the New York Police Department held a rally Saturday in support of NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick opted out of the final year of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and remains unsigned, with many suspecting NFL teams avoiding him due to his choice to refrain from standing during the National Anthem last season. There are no specific NFL rules requiring players to stand for the anthem, but Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated and later kneel, was viewed by some media pundits as disrespectful to police officers and members of the armed forces.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL.com when asked about his choice to sit in August of 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Officers on hand at Saturday’s #ImWithKap Rally agreed with Kaepernick about the larger issue of unarmed black men and women being killed during what were viewed as seemingly routine police stops.
“We can confirm that the issues he is saying exist in policing and throughout the criminal justice system indeed exist,” one participant said.
Frank Serpico, whose allegations of police corruption in the 1970s were chronicled in the eponymous 1973 film Serpico, was also on hand.
Kaepernick’s choice to sit during the anthem followed the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, among others. In each case, unarmed black men were killed by armed police officers. Kaepernick’s remarks about “people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” likely reference the lack of an indictment in each case.
The choice of having the rally in New York added another storyline, as Giants co-owner John Mara was one of the few NFL owners to explain his reasoning for passing on signing Kaepernick.
“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara told Sports Illustrated. “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.”