While Colin Kaepernick is still searching for a team, a group showed their support for him in New York.
USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK – Across the street on the other side of Park Avenue, opposite the building that houses the NFL offices in Midtown Manhattan, two black trucks with video boards beamed a slideshow of images.
One showed Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Another displayed him gazing up at the sky with the words “we support Kaepernick” flashing below.
Kevin Livingston paced anxiously on the sidewalk.
The president of 100 Suits for 100 Men, a New York non-profit that gives parolees free business attire and haircuts to assist them in job interviews, Livingston organized a rally Wednesday evening to show support for Kaepernick, who remains a free agent after a season spent speaking out on social issues. The event drew around 70 supporters at its height, with several onlookers and commuters passing through to watch.
“This is not a protest, this is not a demonstration,” Livingston told USA TODAY Sports. “This is a show of solidarity. We’re here supporting Colin because we want to show that we don’t think he’s being treated the way he should be treated, and after everything he’s done for us, we want him to feel that love and that support.”
Kaepernick, 29, has been training in New York during the offseason and donated more than 50 suits to the organization, which prompted Livingston to organize Wednesday’s demonstration.
It ran 45 minutes. Emerald Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died after New York police put a choke hold on him in July 2014, was one of the main speakers.
“I know that he took a knee for us,” Garner yelled into the megaphone. “So now we stand with him. It’s not right that these cops get to walk away scot-free after they killed these unarmed men and this one NFL player stood up for us and gets all of this blackball, all of this backlash. It’s not right. So he took a knee for us — I stand with him.”
Starting with his decision to sit down, and later kneel, during the playing of the national anthem, Kaepernick spent the majority of last season promoting various social causes and speaking out against a perceived injustice toward minorities and incarcerated members of low-income communities.
Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March and officially became a free agent. He remains unsigned, though NFL Network reported Wednesday he had a workout scheduled with the Seattle Seahawks.
New York State Sen. James Sanders Jr., former NBA player Etan Thomas, several spoken word poets and other community activists also spoke, sharing support for Kaepernick and promoting messages of fair treatment of minorities and disenfranchised people.
A radio personality addressed the crowd when Nupol Kiazolu, 17, head of the youth coalition for Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, went up to Garner off to the right side of the crowd. She fought back tears as her eyes welled.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Kiazolu told Garner. “It’s just such an honor to be speaking to you. I’m trying to keep it together, but it’s hard. Your dad is why we fight.”
Kiazolu later told USA TODAY Sports that she was a huge football fan but will no longer support the league until Kaepernick is signed by a team.
“I just can’t watch while someone who spoke his mind and expressed his thoughts is being criminalized for that,” Kiazolu said. “As a young black woman, I feel it’s important to stand up for what is right.”
In between speeches, Livingston led cheers of “no justice, no peace” and “what do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”
With the work day approaching is end, a series of NFL executives trickled out of the front of the building to head home. Many looked over at the demonstration.
Kaepernick had been working with 100 Suits for 100 Men since October, making donations to the organization and giving speeches to several of the young people the nonprofit aims to help.
In an image posted to the Instagram account of Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp on May 1, Kaepernick is seen outside of the New York State Parole office in Queens with Livingston and boxes of custom-tailored suits that he donated.
The New York demonstration was one of 12 across the country scheduled for Wednesday.
“To me, it boosts our morale, our efforts,” DeJon Smith, who has been working for Livingston for four months, told USA TODAY Sports. “When Kap came by and spoke to the kids we have in the program, when he donated the suits to our older parolees, you could see it on their face. You could see how important his presence was to them.
“With Kap’s support, it shows that were getting somewhere. It shows that the world is now watching us. So we just want to stand by his side.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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