When I was 8 years old, my parents asked me if I wanted to sign up to play tackle football. I had a couple of friends that were going to be on the team, and I thought it would be fun to play.
I fell in love with the game of football. A group of kids, learning how to battle together. Each one giving everything they can to achieve victory.
Getting life lessons from your coaches, and learning how to accept people of all different types of backgrounds. All for the love of the game.
We would spend our Saturdays playing our game, and then our Sundays watching the NFL. But the playing days eventually ended, and then the Sundays did too.
Everyone who knows me knows that there's nothing I love more than basketball. But football was always a close second. Baseball eventually became a game I came to love thanks to my wife and my father-in-law who is a baseball legend.
I have always been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers because my step-dad is a die hard fan of the team. Me and him bonded more and more over the years because of our shared love for the team.
But a lot has happened in the last few years in the NFL, and it's had me do a lot of thinking.
About five years ago, I was working for a website as a contributor for their NFL department. I wrote about the Pittsburgh Steelers 3-4 times a week. It was easy for me because all I had to do was write about the team. I loved that job.
But I wanted to go back to writing for myself, so after the season I went solo again. And the next season was when Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the national anthem.
This story was already as big as news could possibly get, but it was even bigger here in Northern California because of the amount of San Francisco 49ers fans.
I remember being at a family gathering a couple weeks after the kneeling started, and I was talking to one person who is a 49ers fan and another person who doesn't really even watch football. They asked me how I felt about the situation. The 49er fan simply said "I think it's stupid." I kind of ignored it and explained why it was important that he continued to do what he was doing.
At the time, it never occurred to me that his acts could possibly keep him blackballed from the NFL. Especially after everything I had seen NFL players go through throughout the years and continue to be accepted by the NFL community.
And yet, it's three years later, and Colin is still out of a job.
Let's quickly run through a list of players who were given jobs in the NFL after being arrested for domestic violence. Let me take a deep breath . . . *breathes in heavily* . . . Shawne Merriman, Chad Johnson, Cedrick Wilson, James Harrison, Najeh Davenport, Larry Johnson, Dominic Rhodes, Leon Searcy, Corey Dillon, Reuben Foster, Johnathan Dwyer, Brandon Marshall, Santonio Holmes, Dez Bryant, Donte Whitner, Frostee Rucker...
Should I really keep going? The list seemingly never ends. Seriously, Google it.
The strange thing is that I've seen these guys get in trouble with the law, yet NFL owners and fans never seemed to care. As long as they played good on the field, it was all good. Time heals all wounds, right?
What about the victims? Do you think time healed their wounds? Do you think that them and their families that were also effected by these acts of violence just went on with their lives like normal?
Why do these guys get a second and third and fourth chance at success, while these people have to suffer in the dark corners of society? Because the NFL doesn't give a fuck about women, that's why.
But when a black man with a giant afro kneels for the rights of people who don't have the means to speak for themselves, White America (and many others) are offended to no end.
And again, we ask why . . . Because the NFL doesn't give a fuck about anyone's opinion except White America.
Blackballing Colin from the NFL cost the league and it's owners a lot of money in his lawsuit. And now he's going to have the opportunity to workout for a group of teams.
But just a few days before his workout, the NFL may have reached it's lowest point in league history in terms of their product.
Last year, Kareem Hunt was caught on camera not only hitting a woman, but then kicking her in the face while she was on all fours. The video surfaced and it ultimately cost him his job with the Kansas City Chiefs. I told myself that if he ended up getting a job, I wouldn't watch the NFL anymore.
And of course he was signed, by the Cleveland Browns. He was suspended for 8 weeks, and was finally allowed to return a couple weeks ago. Their nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers showed the world that still nobody cares about women or victims of domestic violence.
As the cameras panned across the stadium, you could see signs that said "Kareemland." Not a good look at all.
As I sat there watching the game, I found myself getting angry every time he came on the screen. It was my own fault. The only four games I watched all season were Steelers nationally televised games with my family. Pretty much the only reason I watched was because of that bond I always had with my step-dad.
And yet here I was, watching a game with the guy and team that had pushed me over the edge. The Browns played the way you would expect an organization who allows guys like this on their team to play.
Before halftime, two Steelers receivers got concussions due to hits from Browns players. Which led to one Browns player being ejected.
They looked like they were head hunting.
There was a moment in the game when Hunt got tackled and he got into a bit of a tussle with TJ Watt. As they stood there staring at each other, Hunt flexed his muscle and was chirping at Watt. And all I could think about was his violent history.
A grown man, stronger than your average citizen, getting so angry that he could possibly beat a defenseless person. As he stood there on the field, acting like he was ready to fight I felt disgusted in myself.
Mad at myself for allowing myself to think that it was harmless to just watch a Steelers game. Foolish to think that things could possibly change for the better. Disappointed in myself for watching, not knowing that things were about to get even worse . . .
In the closing seconds of the game, Mason Rudolph dumped a pass off to a receiver. After the ball was already gone, Browns player Myles Garrett continued to slam Rudolph to the ground. The play was over and the game was essentially over. But this moment was just beginning.
After he slammed Rudolph to the ground in a meaningless play, Rudolph was rightfully upset and grabbed Garrett's helmet in an attempt to get him off. Garrett followed up with one of the most violent in-game acts ever seen in sports history.
He began yanking on the facemark of Rudolph's helmet, bringing him up to his feet by brute force. He got the helmet off of Rudolph's head. As he was pushed back by a Steelers player in an attempt to calm him down, he used the helmet as a weapon to strike Rudolph's bare head with his own helmet. Possibly inches from hitting his temple and possibly killing the guy.
An act of violence, assault with a deadly weapon, crime was committed on the field of play.
And it was in that moment when I realized, this was the last NFL game I would ever watch.