On Sunday, Temple University’s Marc Lamont Hill wrote on Facebook, “Of course, the one year I boycott football is the year the Eagles go to the Super Bowl.”
But to his credit, as millions of Eagles fans cheered as their team clinched the NFC Championship, the nationally known CNN political commentator didn’t even glance at the TV. It had to have been difficult, since he spent the evening dining with friends at the Silk City Diner Bar & Lounge. A small TV at the diner in the 400 block of Spring Garden Street was tuned to the game.
“My back was to it, so it helped,” Hill wrote me on Monday. “I figured we were winning, because people kept cheering, but nobody was cursing.”
If nothing else, the owner of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee Shop & Books in Germantown is a man of principles, and after deciding that he would boycott the football season to protest the league’s treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Hill wasn’t about to watch even as his beloved team was playing its proverbial heart out.
“I’m in too deep now,” he said.
I admire his willpower – especially since a whole lot of folks who swore off football this season in solidarity with Kaepernick gave in and watched on Sunday as the Eagles earned a spot in the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years.
Maybe this wasn’t the best year for Eagles fans to try a boycott, even for a cause as noble as supporting Kaepernick, who sparked a national controversy after first sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans. Other players from multiple sports staged similar anthem protests. After Kaepernick failed to find a new team, some fans, mainly African Americans, cried foul and announced plans to boycott the entire season.
Besides dwindling TV ratings, there’s no way of saying just how many armchair fans decided to sit out the season. In October, my colleague Elizabeth Wellington wrote about two dozen local men who started hanging out with kids in West Philadelphia’s Carroll Park and spending time with their families instead of watching football. Carl Tone Jones, 43, said he and the other men have continued their boycott.
“There’s a certain thing called integrity,” said Jones, who participated in a webinar on black community activism on Sunday night.
Yeah, but Eagles fever is infectious, especially now that the Eagles are looking at what could be their first Super Bowl win ever. David Anthony Miller of DAM Good Bodies Elite Personal Training had been vocal on social media about his support of Kaepernick and the boycott, but as the Eagles’ momentum picked up, his resolve broke.
“The game [Carson] Wentz got hurt was my first all year. I made it to December. Can’t remember the last time I missed a game before this season,” Miller said. “I still support Colin and I’m still upset about how he was treated, but I needed to see them go to the Super Bowl.”
Because of my job, I knew I couldn’t boycott. So I was in my Eagles green watching Sunday’s game while chatting on the phone with a friend when I realized he hadn’t tuned in. “You don’t have the game on?” I asked.
“Hell no,” was Mister Mann Frisby’s response.
Frisby, a former Daily News reporter, enjoys hanging out at Project Tailgate’s epic football parties, but has abstained this season because of Kaepernick’s mistreatment. That got me wondering who else was still boycotting. I checked in with various folks on Monday and found that although some people who had said they planned to abstain had caught Eagles fever again, others still were boycotting.
“Well, I’m one of those people who stands with Kaep in boycotting the organization,” said Melissa Robbins, a political strategist who didn’t watch the game. “I still love football, I just wish that the organization placed more value on the lives of our black males.”
So, will CNN’s Hill stick with his boycott even through the Super Bowl?
“Absolutely,” he responded. “It wouldn’t be a protest if I only did it when it was easy. It’d be like a hunger strike right after you’ve eaten. Now is the test.”
One, no doubt, he’ll pass.