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Kaepernick’s backers rally in support of controversial quarterback

Activists raise their fists at a rally in support of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick outside the offices of the National Football League on Park Avenue, in New York City © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Drew Angerer

NEW YORK, United States, Aug 24Baseball legend Hank Aaron said Colin Kaepernick is “getting a raw deal” as supporters rallied in front of NFL headquarters in New York on Wednesday on behalf of the controversial quarterback.

Aaron told in an online video published Wednesday that Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL owners who disagree with his politics.

“I think he’s getting a raw deal,” Aaron said. “If you look at all the quarterbacks in the league right now, I think you have to say he is one, two, three, four. I don’t think anybody can do the things he could do. I wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing.”

Kaepernick, 29, became a lightning rod for controversy with the San Francisco 49ers last season when he opted not to stand for the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racism.

Kaepernick said he wanted to spark conversation and debate, but critics accused him of disrespecting the flag and the US military.

Now a free agent, Kaepernick has not been signed by any NFL team.

In a sport where competent quarterbacks are prized more than any other players, Kaepernick’s unemployment is strikingly anomalous — and civil rights activists have taken note.

The NAACP has requested a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss Kaepernick.

Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s interim president and CEO, said “no player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech.”

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On Twitter, #BlackoutNFL finds black men from an array of professions vowing to stop watching or attending games of the hugely popular league, devoting the hours instead to work in their communities.

In the meantime, sideline anthem protests have continued in the NFL pre-season.

On Monday, a dozen Cleveland Browns players knelt during the anthem before an exhibition game against the New York Giants.

“There’s a lot of racial and social injustices in the world that are going on right now,” rookie safety Jabrill Peppers said. “We just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and just pray for the world in general.”

The recent protests have seen more white players offering support — by placing their hands on the shoulders of black teammates who were protesting during the anthem.

In front of NFL headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday groups including Justice League NYC and Color of Change rallied, with several hundred showing up in support of Kaepernick — wielding signs and chanting “I’m with Kap.”

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