NFL 2020: How Racism Affected Football in Its History

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From segregation cases in the early days of the league to the social and political condemnation of players who protested the violence against the black race.

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Professional sports in the United States in these times became a spokesperson for strong activity and influence. in the crusade against racism and violence begotten in his name, so much so that major leagues, including American football, have even been at the forefront of many proclamations and, as a consequence, they confronted the country’s political leaders, also to make visible how this kind of abuses suffered, especially by the black race, affected them.

In fact, the strong action undertaken under the motto Black Lives Matter in American sports, and which spread throughout the world, had a germ that started almost solitary in 2016. It was then that quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then a star player for the San Francisco 49ers, remained seated as the anthem played in the run-up to a preseason game, in protest against racial injustice, police brutality, and the systematic oppression of the nation.

Such visibility that he gave to his gesture was not gratuitous for Kaepernick, who since the end of that season was banned from the National Football League (NFL), so much so that no team has hired him again since then due to the corporate decision of the league, and with the suspicion that behind such restriction it was concocted by the highest political establishment in the United States, this is the White House itself.

Beyond the fact that the 2020 season will have the coronavirus pandemic as the main problem, racism and social injustice will also play a role in the NFL. In this case, the league plans to protest and join Black Lives Matter to eradicate this situation, with a battery of proclamations that will be observed on the players’ clothing, on the playing fields and even on television broadcasts.

It is part of a change implemented by the NFL, which in recent weeks admitted to making a mistake when it did not listen to protests against racial violence., as Commissioner Roger Goodell assumed, in a talk with franchise owners and expressly referring to the Colin Kaepernick case.

During 2020, American society was shaken by two specific acts of police brutality against black people, which unleashed a wave of protests throughout the country and had their counterpart in sports: the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the shooting attack suffered by Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

It was for this reason that many NFL players have expressed themselves on social networks individually, but there were also collective demonstrations such as that demonstrated by the Denver Broncos franchise, which attended en masse a peaceful march held in the city of the state of Colorado. It is that racial violence also crossed the most popular sport in the United States in its history.

In 1920, fourteen teams founded the American Professional Football Association (APFA), whose name changed the following year to the National Football League. In the league’s early years, up to nine black players and one coach were part of it, but by 1926 there were none left.. The economic crisis caused the owners to opt for hiring white players, and what was initially done as an option, ended up being regulated when in 1933 the franchise owners approved a ban on signing black players.

After this official segregation, African-American players could only play at the university level. In 1940, one of them, he running back estrella Kenny Washington he excelled in an exhibition game between a collegiate team and defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers. When the Chicago Bears wanted to sign him, the league did not lift the veto imposed in 1933.

The appearance in the 1946 All-America Football Conference (AAFC), the new professional league, brought an opening for black players, which generated a contagion effect in the NFL, which had to follow the steps to avoid losing competitiveness. The two leagues merged in 1949.

Three years later, all NFL teams had black players except the Washington Redskins. Its owner, George Preston Marshall, was the architect of the 1933 veto, and continued to refuse to sign African-American players. Finally, in 1962, the government intervened through Secretary of State Stewart Udall and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to put an end to this situation.

Marshall selected in the first round of the draft running back Syracuse Ernie Davis, Heisman Trophy winner, but Davis refused to play “for that son of a bitch,” and was traded to Cleveland for Bobby Mitchell, the Redskins’ first African-American player. But integration was far from a reality.

Although minimum quotas were established for black players to ensure their presence in the league, some teams accumulated them in a certain position. This way they met the norm, but only one could play at the same time. Similarly, there was a wage gap between white and black players.

The main change came with the birth of the American Football League (AFL) in 1959, where there was no segregationist norm. In 1970, the two leagues merged, since then the presence of black players has risen, until reaching the current great majority in the NFL rosters.

Having played six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick has not been hired again since their relationship ended in 2017.. That season, amid the accusations against different police officers in which they were singled out for murdering an African-American population, the quarterback and other players began to make gestures of protest during the American anthem, before the start of the games.

Between 2012 and 2014 the deaths of citizens Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner took place, which once again found little or no response from justice. This was the main cause of the appearance of the movement Black Lives Matter in 2013, which got a lot of notoriety thanks to the demonstrations called to protest the deaths of Brown (in the city of Ferguson) and Garner (in New York).


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