ATLANTA - Protesters joined in across the country to show their support for quarterback Colin Kaepernick outside of the NFL’s headquarters and in different cities throughout the country, including right here in Atlanta.
The rallies are in support of the former 49er who remains a free agent after his decision to take a knee during the national anthem last season. He knelt in protest to police shootings and perceived injustices across the country.
Supported by several civil rights groups and celebrities, the rallies comes after a protest in support of the quarterback by current and former New York Police officers in Brooklyn last weekend.
In Atlanta, local protesters held a rally, outside the College Football Hall of Fame in Downtown Atlanta, then continuing on to Morris Brown College. Organizers of Atlanta's protest said if Kaepernick is not employed, not only will they boycott the NFL this season, but the sponsors that support the league. And with two weeks until the season kicks off, Kaepernick has still not been signed by any NFL team.
"We have to make sure that the modern day Muhammad Ali -- Colin Kaepernick -- we surround and support him, and tell the National Football League that we will not lay down," one speaker said at Wednesday night's event.
Ever sense the polarizing athlete spoke out against what he called police brutality and racism in America, he's become a lightning rod of controversy.
Should players stand for the national anthem? It's a question that has a lot of football fans divided. His supporters believe it's the reason the quarterback is not signed to a team.
"They took his livelihood away from him," another rallier says.
Students at Morris Brown College said they are learning an important civic lesson about freedom of speech in America: "I believe that we must all, must collectively stand together whether that is boycotting, whether it's sharing information...I believe it's very, very important that we come together as one."
More than 173K people have signed a change.org petition called #NoKaepernickNoNFL to boycott the NFL if no team signs Kaepernick. They're promising not to watch or attend games, not buy NFL merchandise or talk about teams on social media. Protesters in Atlanta also say they're going to kick off their boycott season by marching at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Falcons play their first home game in September.
In a previous 11Alive poll, we asked if you thought Kaepernick should play this season. More than half of you said no and engaged in a sometimes-intense conversation in the comments section.
WHY HE KNELT
In an interview with NFL.com last season, Kaepernick explained why he started first sitting out and then kneeling during the national anthem.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said, to NFL.com. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
He said, "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed...If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."
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