Many Black Families Watching As 'Take A Knee' NFL Protests Continue

Originally published on October 3, 2017 8:19 pm
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For almost two weeks, black players in the National Football League have been under an intense spotlight during the national anthem, some standing, some kneeling and many of them locking arms with their teammates. The silent protests or demonstrations of solidarity have turned off some fans. But as Tonya Mosley of member station KQED in San Francisco reports, many black families are watching closely.

TONYA MOSLEY, BYLINE: There's one thing you should know about Rob Hughes. He's hopelessly devoted to NFL football. His wife, Jwana, jokes it's his first love.

JWANA HUGHES: Eagles. Since I met him, diehard Eagle fan.

MOSLEY: He has the Comcast RedZone deluxe cable package. It gives him access to every game in the country. On a 60-inch television from the comfort of his living room couch, Hughes even checks his fantasy football online during commercial breaks.

ROB HUGHES: If I could have a TV in my bathroom so I wouldn't have to actually miss a second, I would (laughter).

MOSLEY: But things have been a little different this season. Hughes pays more attention to the top of the game, the national anthem, what players are kneeling and what players aren't. As we jump in the car to grab some snacks before his beloved Philly Eagles play the Los Angeles Chargers, Hughes explains how he sometimes puts himself in the players' shoes.

R. HUGHES: Would I kneel? Would I stand? Would I do the patriotic thing, as I was taught?

MOSLEY: He's not sure. He supports a player's right to protest - no question. And he supports that the protest is against police brutality. Last year, he took his 13-year-old son to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp in Oakland. At the time, Kaepernick was a quarterback for the 49ers, and he was scrutinized for taking the knee throughout the season during the national anthem.

R. HUGHES: It took a whole lot of heart for that dude to do that. I also think to myself, like, I wonder if he thought that all this would come from just that one act.

MOSLEY: Hughes' son Kelby says Kaepernick's camp was life-changing. He learned stuff like how to talk to and deal with law enforcement. But most of all, Kelby says he learned that he has the right to know his rights. Now when he sits to watch football with his dad, he's thinking about a lot more than a touchdown.

KELBY: Every time I see a game, that reminds me of people who have knelt and people who have at least tried to solve our problems in our country.

MOSLEY: Some of the family's friends are boycotting the NFL by not watching the games. They feel Kaepernick hasn't been hired for political reasons. But Hughes doesn't want to do that.

R. HUGHES: You have to also - what? - boycott everybody that supports them. So I've got to boycott Visa. I've got to boycott Pepsi. I've got to boycott all these corporate entities that also do that.

MOSLEY: Other people are boycotting the NFL for allowing the players to protest during the anthem. This frustrates Hughes's wife, Jwana.

J. HUGHES: It's not about the flag. It's about police brutality. That's the way I take it as.

R. HUGHES: Touchdown. Touchdown.

MOSLEY: This week, the Eagles beat the Chargers. Hughes took note during the anthem as the camera focused on Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins raising his fist. For NPR News, I'm Tonya Mosley in San Leandro, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETE ROCK'S "A LITTLE SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.