Spike Lee criticises lack of change in NFL as Colin Kaepernick still without job

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Film-maker Spike Lee has said he does not feel “much has changed” in the NFL as former American footballer Colin Kaepernick has not been given back his job after he kneeled during games to protest against racial injustice in the US.

Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, sparked an intense debate in 2016 for kneeling during the national anthem to protest against police brutality, with former US president Donald Trump calling for the NFL to fire any player who did not stand for the anthem.

Attending a ceremony in London on Monday where he is being awarded a BFI Fellowship, he told the PA news agency he missed Sunday’s Super Bowl and Rihanna’s half-time performance as he was flying to the UK.

Asked if he felt the football industry had changed, he said: “Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job at the NFL, so I wouldn’t say that much has changed.

“Look, there’s been positive changes but there’s still a whole lot more work that has to be done, the struggle continues.”

Barbadian singer Rihanna, who delivered a 13-minute medley of her greatest hits during the football game, previously declined to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl half-time show out of solidarity with Kaepernick.

Reflecting on receiving the BFI Fellowship, the highest honour that can be bestowed by the British Film Institute, Lee told PA he felt “great”.

The writer, actor and director also said he would be dedicating the award to his “lovely wife of 30 years” Tonya Lewis Lee, his children, his siblings, his father and the New York Knicks basketball team.

Lee is best known for films including Da 5 Bloods and BlacKkKlansman, which won the best adapted screenplay Oscar in 2019.

His work typically deals with controversial social and political issues.

He also received the honorary Academy Award in 2016 and the Bafta special award in 2002 for his contribution to cinema.

Lee told PA that he could not pick one specific notable project as he was “proud of the work” he had done in his career and that he is motivated to continue as he feels “not a lot of people on this God’s Earth get to make a living doing what they love”.

He added: “I’m in my fourth decade, that’s mad work. I’m just very blessed. I feel that many blessings have been cast upon me and I’m grateful for that.

“I understand that it could have gone another way so I’m looking forward to tonight.”

The film-maker also runs teaching classes and revealed that his key piece of advice to students was that they must be “dedicated”.

He said he tells them: “(If) you’re in this for the glamour, you’re not going to last. Hopefully, you’re here because you love cinema and want to tell stories.”

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