The NAACP's interim president Derrick Johnson has officially requested a formal meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss NFL players and their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.
According to a letter sent to the league by the NAACP, the meeting will specifically focus on Kaepernick's perceived "blackballing" by the league in light of his protests last season. It also questions the silencing of NFL players' platforms, citing Tommie Smith and John Carlos's black power salute at the 1968 Olympics, among other examples.
Kaepernick's lack of a job has raised many eyebrows throughout the offseason, particularly with the quarterbacks being signed ahead of him. Johnson penned a concern regarding Kaepernick's First Amendment rights and also strongly insinuated that his protest was the sole cause of him not being signed. An excerpt of the letter reads:
Last season, Mr. Kaepernick chose to exercise his First Amendment rights by protesting the inequitable treatment of people of color in America. By quietly taking a knee during the national anthem, he was able to shine a light on the many injustices, particularly, the disproportionate occurrences of police misconduct toward communities of color. As outlined in your office's public statement, this act of dissent is well within the National Football League's stated bylaws. Yet, as the NFL season quickly approaches, Mr. Kaepernick has spent an unprecedented amount of time as a free agent, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is no sheer coincidence.
"No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech -- to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the NFL's own regulations.
Obviously, invoking the Constitution is a powerful tool, and it raises questions about what's covered by free speech. The NAACP also stressed the important of free speech in the Civil Rights Movement, along with the importance that it's upheld moving forward.
The exercise of free speech has proven to be a vital tool in in bringing to the public's attention often ignored issues of social justice, particularly in the African-American community. The powerful act of utilizing one's platform to address issues of discrimination and inequality has long been employed by many of the world's greatest athletes.
Some teams may be a starting quarterback injury away from signing Kaepernick, but the Baltimore Ravens disproved that theory when rumors swirled after Joe Flacco's back injury. They ultimately chose to sign Thaddeus Lewis to spell Flacco. There have been protests in front of the NFL headquarters regarding Kaepernick, including one on Wednesday.
Since losing the starting job in San Francisco, Kaepernick has faced tremendous scrutiny. Other athletes have joined in on his protest, and depending on how the next few weeks go, these protests may start to pick up steam if Kaepernick remains unsigned -- whether it's fair or not.