It was a Monday that threw into sharp focus the issues of diversity and inclusion that face the NFL.
For the first time in the league’s history, the seven-man crew officiating the Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were Black.
However, on the same day the NFL celebrated such a momentous occasion, Colin Kaepernick tweeted out a video of himself training with former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid, along with the caption: “1,363 days of being denied employment. Still putting in work with @E_Reid35 Still going hard 5 days a week. #StillReady #StopRunning.”
Jerome Boger, a 17-year NFL officiating veteran, led the crew and was joined by umpire Barry Anderson, side judge Anthony Jeffries, line judge Carl Johnson, down judge Julian Mapp, field judge Dale Shaw and back judge Greg Steed.
“This historic Week 11 crew is a testament to the countless and immeasurable contributions of Black officials to the game, their exemplary performance, and to the power of inclusion that is the hallmark of this great game,” Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of Football Operations, said in a statement.
The tightly fought game ended 27-24 in the Rams favor.
Four of the NFL’s 17 referee/crew chiefs are Black, but as ESPN points out, there is a far lower percentage for NFL coaches, general managers and presidents.
Two general managers are Black and the Washington Football Team’s Jason Wright is the NFL’s first and only Black president. Only three of 32 NFL head coaches are Black, the same number as when the league adopted the Rooney Rule in 2003 which stipulated a team must interview a minority candidate before reaching a final decision.
According to the NFL’s Diversity & Inclusion Report for 2020, of the 31 head coaches, coordinators and general managers hired between February 4 2019 and February 2 2020, seven were men of color – one general manager, one head coach and five defensive coordinators.
Kaepernick’s hunt for work continues
Kaepernick’s one-minute video which accompanies his tweet opens with a counter showing the number of days the 33-year-old has been without an NFL team.
What follows is a montage of Kaepernick throwing the ball to Reid, filmed at a number of different football fields, set to the bass-filled song ‘Legacy’ by PeteyxKraze playing over the top.
Reid runs a number of different routes, while Kaepernick shows off different throws and his arm strength, as the lyrics in the background ask repeatedly, “What makes you different?”
The video finishes by cutting to black and the words “#stillready#.”
In June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell encouraged teams to sign Kaepernick. The NFL didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding Kaepernick’s social post.
It is just over a year ago that Kaepernick held his public workout, where teams were able to observe him training.
The workout was itself cloaked in controversy after Kaepernick changed the venue at the last minute, saying the NFL wouldn’t allow the planned workout venue to be open to the media and the player’s own film crew.
It will be two years in February that Kaepernick and workout partner and free-agent safety Reid settled their collusion grievance cases against the NFL.
Reid, who was one of the first of Kaepernick’s teammates to join him in his protests and kneel with each other during the national anthem, played for the Carolina Panthers for the last two seasons. After being released in March, he is yet to find a new team too.
Just in the past six months, multiple players and coaches including 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and LA Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn have said Kaepernick deserves to be on a team again.
Even Donald Trump has said Kaepernick “should” be on a team “if he deserves it.” This is from a man who once said of anthem protestors, that NFL owners of teams with protestors should respond by saying, “Get that son of a bitch of the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
Additional reporting by Kevin Dotson