The National Football League (founded in 1920 as the American Professional Football League, and relaunched in 1922) opens its 95th season tonight, and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has no job. While the many experts who populate television, radio, and web forums claim that Kaepernick’s unemployment has nothing to do with the political stand he took against racism last year, and everything to do with his inability to move the 49ers offense last year, many of us look at other backup quarterbacks around the league — aging, slowing down, and with average NFL skill sets — and see an industry-wide boycott. Kaepernick’s unemployment is not a sports or entertainment issue, it’s a workplace discrimination issue in an industry that treats its workers, paid and unpaid, as interchangeable parts.
Football may be entertainment for most of us, but it is labor for those who play it, a kind of work that requires as much preparation and discipline as any academic or white collar professional training. In fact, many parents begin fantasizing about an NFL career when their children are only in pre-K: Pop Warner’s Tiny-Mite League enrolls players as young as five and as small as 35 pounds…..
For the rest of this essay, originally published on September 7 2017, go to Public Seminar.