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You’ll Never Believe What Canadian Football League Players Have to Say About Kaepernick

Sports field is becoming far more divided all over the globe — here are the views of athletes up north

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American players in the Canadian Football League (CFL) are joining their neighbors to the south — and politicizing their sport.

Over the past few years, the NFL has become politicized as a result of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling antic during the national anthem and the protests by other players since then.

Although the American national anthem is not played at their games, many U.S.-born CFL players have made it clear they support Kaepernick’s cause.

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Sherrie Baltimore, originally from Maryland, recently praised Kaepernick as a civil rights hero.

“Colin Kaepernick is an icon. They’ll be talking about him in 30 years in elementary schools,” Baltimore told the Ottawa Sun.

“It’s about equality. There’s a lot of white vs. black in the U.S. It’s not about America or ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ or any of that — police brutality to black people, that’s why [Kaepernick is] taking a knee.”

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Edmonton Eskimos wide receiver Kenny Stafford, who is from Ohio, has also said he sees Kaepernick as a hero.

“I would say he’s our modern-day Muhammad Ali when you think about it,” he told the Edmonton Sun.

“He’s not liked for what he’s standing for, but he’s still standing for it and he’s paying the price right now with his career.”

One major difference between Kaepernick and Ali, among other differences, is that Ali — one of the greatest athletes of all time — went to prison at the height of his boxing career to protest the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick didn’t risk anything — yet Nike is paying him handsomely.

The NFL’s television ratings have dipped by over 17 percent in 2016 and 2017 combined. If they fall again at a similar pace this season, the league will have lost a quarter of its fanbase in three seasons.

Redblacks defensive end Jonathan Newsome, an Ohio native who played for the Indianapolis Colts from 2014 to 2015, even went so far as to tell The Ottawa Sun, “My only hope is to get permanent residence and move to Canada. It’s definitely better. Compared to America, this is like heaven. I don’t see [the racism]. People are polite, they’re cool. They don’t feel the need to have to express their negative opinions all the time.”

Although players in that league have not engaged in kneeling protests during the Canadian national anthem, some players protested last season after President Donald Trump suggested NFL players who knelt for the national anthem should be fired.

In their next game following those comments, members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders locked arms — just as many NFL teams did that day.

While many of the players in the league may aspire to play in the NFL, emulating the league’s approach to politics does not seem a winning approach.

The CFL, after all, has fans in America; one in 10 Americans follows the CFL, according to a Maclean’s magazine report from 2015. Those games can attract hundreds of thousands of eyeballs here in the U.S., in addition to the Canadian fanbases. Among those American fans, there could be people very frustrated with the NFL who don’t want to deal with politics.

Even among the Canadian fans, there are certainly right-leaning people (and even Trump supporters) who would prefer the sport stay apolitical.

The NFL’s television ratings have dipped by over 17 percent in 2016 and 2017 combined. If they fall again at a similar pace this season, then the league will have lost one quarter of its fanbase in three seasons.

Is that a good model for a pro sports league trying to make money?

The answer is obvious — and that alone should be enough to warn the CFL to steer clear of politics and to focus on football.

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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