New York City police take a knee at rally in support of Colin Kaepernick.
NEW YORK – Dozens of current and former New York City police officers, including famed corruption whistleblower Frank Serpico, turned out Saturday at a rally in support of getting free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job in the National Football League.
The former San Francisco 49ers player became a controversial figure last year after he refused to stand for the national anthem in what he called a protest against oppression of people of color.
He opted out of his contract in March and became a free agent, but so far, no NFL teams have signed him for the upcoming season, which kicks off in three weeks.
The gathering in Brooklyn featured about 75 mostly minority officers wearing black T-shirts reading #imwithkap.
One exception was retired officer Frank Serpico, whose exploits were featured in the 1973 film, Serpico.
He admitted not being a football fan, but said he felt it was important to support Kaepernick for his stance.
“He’s trying to hold up this government up to our founding fathers,” said the now 81-year-old Serpico.
Sgt. Edwin Raymond, who said he was heading to work after the rally, spoke of the need for racial healing in the country.
“Until racism in America is no longer taboo, we own up to it, we admit it, we understand it and then we do what we have to do to solve it, unfortunately we’re going to have these issues,” he said.
A number of NFL players, including Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, have suggested that Kaepernick is being blackballed by teams for his protest. That attitude was echoed on Saturday.
“The fact that this man is no longer in the NFL has nothing to do with stats on the football field, but for taking a knee and pointing out some of the flaws that have been tormenting people of color in this country for decades,” Justice League NYC co-founder Darius Gordon told the New York Daily News.
Kaepernick completed 59.2% of his passes, averaged 6.8 yards per attempt and threw 16 touchdowns with four interceptions in 12 games for the 49ers last season.
But his refusal to stand for the anthem to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice became a far bigger story than his on-field performance.
He has said he will stand for the anthem next year since his objective for the protest, to start a nationwide debate, has largely been achieved.
Kaepernick’s stand against racial injustice has received support among players in a league that is majority African American. In June, the Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said Kaepernick’s situation exposed a racial divide.
“I think the league is built on middle America, and most of the middle of America is predominantly a white crowd,” Bennett said. “That’s just the truth of it. I think race is not something that the NFL wants to be a part of or get behind. But the league is predominantly African American.
“So the issue that he’s dealing with is what we’re all dealing with. We all come from the inner city or we’ve been a part of communities where we felt like we’ve been judged because of the color of our skin or who we like or if a woman – any issue to deal with. We’ve all been dealing with it with someone in our family.”