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Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson holds a press conference in Detroit to speak about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and President Trump's recent comments about player protests. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson announced Monday that he is urging fans to boycott the National Football League until team owners offer Colin Kaepernick a chance to return to the league.

Jackson said at a Detroit news conference that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback's right to speech and gainful employment was violated when NFL teams refused to sign him this season because he knelt in protest during games last season during the National Anthem.

Kaepernick said he would not show pride for a country that oppressed black people.

Jackson suggested that Kaepernick take legal action for having his rights infringed.

“As long as their boycott of Colin Kaepernick continues ... their boycott of free speech and the right to gainful employment, we will respond with a boycott in every city,” Jackson said. “There will be pickets at every game; there will be pickets of viewers and participants. We will challenge people not to attend the games.”

Jackson was in Detroit on Monday for a meeting with General Motors about diversity and minority suppliers.

The civil rights leader held the news conference to not only encourage the NFL boycott but to slam President Donald Trump for his recent attacks on NFL players. He also raised concerns about voter suppression in Michigan.

Trump, in a series of tweets, denounced NFL players who’ve knelt during the National Anthem.

Jackson said Trump should instead spend his time flying to Puerto Rico to bring relief to families devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“The time he (Trump) spent attacking ball players and their mothers should be spent in Puerto Rico,” Jackson said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency already has started delivering water, food, cots and generators. In addition, FEMA officials have said they plan to deliver satellite phones to all of the island’s cities and towns to improve communication.

Jackson, who was joined by Wayne County Clerk Cathy M. Garrett and Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey at the news conference, also said he would be investigating reports of voter fraud and voter suppression in several counties in Michigan.

Jackson questioned the high turnout in Macomb County, a key region where Trump won, 54-42 percent, over Hillary Clinton.

He noted a “flip-flop” in the election where Wayne County voter turnout decreased while Macomb County increased.

Results showed Macomb County voter turnout increased by 1.2 percent between 2012-16, while turnout in Wayne County, a historically a Democratic stronghold, dropped by 0.3 percent.

Jackson said he planned to hold hearings for people who believed their votes were not counted.

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes or two-tenths of a percentage point — the first time a Republican won the state in a presidential year since 1988.

“We challenge those results,” Jackson said of Trump’s win. “We knew the difference in the election is voter suppression or voter fraud.”

While Winfrey and Garrett allowed Jackson to speak for most of the press conference. Winfrey did acknowledge that she is lobbying for a change in recount legislation.

Michigan law bars recounts for unbalanced precincts or ones with broken seals, which happened in 10.6 percent of precincts statewide. The issues were worst in Detroit, where officials could not recount votes in 392 of the city’s 662 precincts, or 59.2 percent.

Winfrey previously said the law didn’t account for human error. Speculation about how many Detroit votes could have been thrown out during a recount is a form of voter suppression, she said.

“I believe facts are purposely skewed to keep you home,” Winfrey said. “It’s to keep you home and make you think your vote doesn’t count when actually your vote did count.”

Clinton won nearly 48,000 fewer votes in Detroit than President Barack Obama did in 2012. She won Detroit, 95 percent-3 percent over Trump in the city.

A Michigan audit of 136 of Detroit’s precincts found 212 questionable votes that produced a net over-vote of 40 ballots. A separate statewide review found 31 Michiganians appeared to vote twice — once by absentee ballot and once in person on Election Day — and referred those voters to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Office for criminal investigation.

nterry@detroitnews.com

313-222-6793

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