2016. Four years ago, the NFL world was shaken by Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest against racism and police brutality.
His initiative made him quickly an outsider in the league, blacklisting him when he opted out of the San Francisco 49ers and decided to become a free agent.
In September 2016, Kaepernick appeared on the cover of Time magazine for a story on patriotism and protests. He was voted most disliked NFL player.
Four years has passed, and little has changed.
May 25th 2020, George Floyd, an African American died at the hands of a white police officer who put a knee on his throat for over 8 minutes.
Let’s admit it, most NFL owners and coaches are white. However, a quick change has been made with the younger class of QBs, with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson or DeShaun Watson. The young QB generation is more politically involved and they want a change. And the NFL had to react somehow.
Kaepernick is now 32, and commissioner Roger Goodell says the QB would be welcomed back, encouraging teams to sign him. He said the NFL “was wrong” for not listening to player protests against racism earlier. He finally understood the protest, the injustice, the violence.
And who does not?
Players like Mahomes had reacted quickly too. Mahomes, Watson, and Jackson have become the faces of the NFL replacing Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers.
Howard Bryant, an ESPN writer, said the presence of those star QBs pushed the league to finally say something.
“Anyone who knows a thing about the National Football League knows that player power runs through the quarterback. And to have a quarterback [Mahomes] who not only won the Super Bowl, but a quarterback who might be the best player? Oh, that’s got us there. The absolute icon of the league,” Bryant said.
With 70 % of the NFL players being black, an action had to be taken. The Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes, answered a question about his race at the Super Bowl press conference stating: “The best thing about it is you’re showing kids that no matter where you grow up, what race you are, that you can achieve your dream,” Mahomes said then. “For me, being a black quarterback — having a black dad and a white mom — it just shows that it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
And despite the risk of being vocal, he followed the path of Colin Kaepernick, and condemned very quickly the racism and affirmed that Black Lives Matter.
Several NFL officials declared that the importance of Mahomes’ involvement in the powerful video against racism can’t be overstated. He is the face of the entire NFL. It wasn’t just that Mahomes was part of the group. He played a key role, looking into the camera and declaring for the first time in the video, “Black Lives Matter.” It was not an innocent move.
And on top of that, he side kicked Tyrann Mathieu and LeBron James among other athletes for the “More than a vote” campaign. The initiative, launched a few days ago in the wake of nationwide protests and demands for social justice, is aimed at creating change through voting and protecting voting rights in the Black community.
At such a young age, and big successes under his belt, Mahomes became so much more. He can finally make a difference, shining a light on social issues. Maybe Colin Kaepernick sacrificed everything for his protest, but it was not in vain. Changes are slow but if the newest QB generation can influence in some way the society, it will be worth the wait.