Colin Kaepernick may not have been playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. However, the former athlete found himself trending on social media due to his absence in another area.
The NFL was slammed for its “Inspire Change” Super Bowl commercial, which debuted during Sunday night’s game at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
In the one-minute clip, which included a montage of protests against racial injustice and police brutality, the football organization revealed its initiative to commit $250 million to end systemic racism.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame speech describing how football brings people together played in the background: “Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions, and creeds living, playing, competing side by side. Living… playing… competing side by side. I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be. Let’s choose to be for one another to fulfill the promise of one nation. To be part of the solution, be part of the change. To try harder, to show up, to dive in, and stay at it.”
The words, “While our season is over, our social justice is not,” appeared on the screen right before the end of the clip.
Despite highlighting all its efforts to bring about change, the ad made no mention of Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49er’s career took a hit because he attempted to protest during the playing of the National Anthem at football games. During 2016 games, Kaepernick infamously kneeled during the song, which was deemed disrespectful to the flag and America’s troops.
Social media condemned the commercial, including journalist Jemele Hill who shared her thoughts on the ad via Twitter. “In that Inspire Change commercial, the NFL forgot to show the part where they blackballed Colin Kaepernick, have only 3 black NFL head coaches and no majority black ownership.”
Hill’s post garnered over 117,000 likes from other social media users who agreed with her sentiments. Meanwhile, others highlighted the hypocrisy in the NFL’s promise to fight social injustice while also releasing Kaepernick, who had attempted to do just that.
“Never forget that the same people who drove Colin Kaepernick out of the NFL now want to gaslight you into thinking they’re committed to racial equity–which you can tell they are serious about because of all the Black coaches they have,” someone wrote.
Another added, “‘ We here at the NFL, are taking a stand against systemic racism. Please ignore when we punished Colin Kaepernick for taking a stand against the exact same thing.'”
Other celebrities reacted to the commercial as well, including Grammy Award winner Mariah Carey, who tweeted during the game, “Happy Colin Kaepernick Appreciation Day!”
Ava DuVernay shared a quote from the former quarterback, “‘ There are bodies in the street and cops are getting paid leave and getting away with murder… I am not looking for approval. If they take football away, take my endorsements from me — I know that I stood up for what is right.’ – #ColinKaepernick.”
Kaepernick later reposted DuVernay’s post.