I spent just about all of Sunday watching football, from the early-afternoon games to the 4:30 p.m. game to that horrible night game (followed by an Insecure season finale watch party with friends—I’m #TeamDaniel). Do I feel guilty? Nah. Do I feel like the guy still taking the 503 line during the Montgomery Bus Boycott? Nope. Is my happy contribution to the Buffalo-wing-and-nachos economy a poor reflection on my “wokeness”? Not really.
Many people that I know, respect and even work with are choosing to #BoycottNFL, #NFLBlackout or #StandWithKap this season for various reasons. While they do, I’m going to be watching every game, yelling at the screen, ordering pizza and playing fantasy football, 100 percent guilt-free. And you can, too. … Here’s why.
There are plenty of horrible things about the NFL that didn’t just pop up in the last 18 months when Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s horrible, hypocritical handling of domestic abuse by players. The league’s disingenuous Thank You for Smoking-type propaganda campaign to cover up the concussion issue. The league’s “Make America Great Again”-hat-wearing, deplorable-pandering decision to bring back country music racist Hank Williams Jr.’s theme song for Monday Night Football. Capped off with the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, who is still without a job when we all saw at least six starting quarterbacks on Sunday who couldn’t find the end zone if it were glued to their foreheads.
All of these are serious problems, and fans have the right to voice their discontent, but the NFL boycott as it’s currently constituted isn’t going to fix any of them. Boycotting the entire league is not focused enough to convince any of the 32 individual franchises out there to hire Kaepernick any faster. That’s like refusing to watch television until some network picks up Underground. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. As for the other problems, keep reading ...
The NFL is like porn that everybody admits to watching. Millions of people consume it and enjoy it, and it’s an essential part of the holidays (just ask Pornhub). At the same time, in order to enjoy it, you have to ignore that porn is based on rampant misogyny, racism and the exploitation of women and the poor; that it encourages substance abuse; and that porn “employees” often incur lifelong physical ailments after a very short career. Sounds a lot like football, right? Here’s the thing—I’m not going to challenge you not to watch porn (’cause I know you won’t) or even football, for that matter.
But if you take just the slightest peek behind the curtain of most things you consume—television, clothing, food—you’ll be horrified at the racism, misogyny and abuse that takes place. If you knew half the things Coca-Cola has done, you’d spit out your Dasani. You can literally throw a ball at almost any corporate entity in America and scream in your best Ash “I choose you” voice, and you’d find something worth boycotting for good reason. I’m not mad at you, either; I’m just not choosing football.
A few weeks ago, millions of black folks got together and watched Floyd Mayweather—a horrible, barely literate, millionaire woman-beating ex-convict—beat the Lucky Charms out of Conor McGregor, a horrible, racist brute from Ireland. Mayweather made over $250 million after a 25-minute “fight.” You can dislike Mayweather (as most decent people do) and you could still root for him to beat down a racist interloper like McGregor. Watching Mayweather pummel McGregor was like post-Charlottesville, Va., catharsis for black America.
The same applies to the NFL. I will continue to complain about racist announcers, self-loathing Negroes who bojangle for network executives by attacking Kaepernick (I see you, Michael Vick, and you should be ashamed) and the despicable right-wing politics of most NFL franchise owners. At the same time, I can root for great players like Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and remember that every time he sacks Tom Brady, a black angel gets its wings.
I can root for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and feel immense joy that with every win, he drives those downtown Pittsburgh Yinzers crazy. I even support flawed-but-sincere players like Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, whose million-dollar smile and philanthropy cause more white tears than a Michelle Obama Glamour cover. I support black excellence even when it is performing in an overall oppressive system, like Simone Biles at the horrible Olympics, LeBron James in the racist NBA or any of my friends who work at Fox News.
When you’re a grown-up, work, travel, kids, spouses, significant others and everything else associated with “adulting” can make it really difficult to get everybody together in one place. Football, for one glorious day out of each week from September to February’s Super Bowl, is one of the few collective activities where everyone can get together that is also much cheaper than a wedding and less depressing than a funeral. More power to folks out there boycotting the NFL, who are dedicating those now suddenly open nine hours to volunteering, working out, learning a new language and realizing there’s a Sunday farmers market across the street from their house. As for me, I’m on the couch with friends checking fantasy-football stats.
Across the board, I’m a fan of protesting—Occupy Wall Street, tear down Confederate monuments, the Rent Is Too Damn High, the NFL; whatever motivates you; do you. I also don’t feel that my $300 NFL Sunday Ticket purchase is a litmus test for my commitment to black lives or women’s equality or head-trauma victims.
Do the problems with the NFL make me less enthusiastic about the games this year? Of course they do; the ratings and even sports analysts have all noted that the league has taken a well-deserved hit in fan enthusiasm. Maybe that will lead to some major structural changes, but I doubt it. Either way, to all my boycotting friends and colleagues, don’t make any major plans with me on Sunday for the next couple of months, and when we catch up this February, I fully expect you to have stopped drinking soda, learned Chinese and cleaned all that smut off your web browser.