If you, like me, are not interested in the drama surrounding Colin Kaepernick, then you should probably avoid talk show segments regarding him for the next couple of months. Because if you thought it was played out by now, trust me when I say it’s about to get worse. According an article released by ESPN, Kaepernick, a current free agent in the National Football League, filed a grievance against the NFL owners for collusion. The grievance can be summed up in the following excerpt: “[the NFL owners] have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”
All of this stems from the previous NFL season, when Kaepernick—then playing for the San Francisco 49ers—began kneeling for the national anthem in order to bring awareness to the police shootings of black men and women. This protest brought about a slew of responses that ranged from full support to complete opposition. The controversy carried over into the current NFL season where more players, and sometimes whole teams, began to kneel during or before the national anthem, bringing about more feedback, including a response from President Donald Trump. However, Kaepernick’s contract with the 49ers had expired last season, making him a free agent. And since the beginning of the season, he has remained unsigned. His claim is that the NFL owners colluded to keep him from getting picked up by a team.
Kaepernick is filing this claim because he cannot get a job, despite having once been a excellent quarterback. Looking at the numbers, from the 2012 season to the 2014 season, Kaepernick threw for 8380 yards and 50 touchdowns and ran 1578 yards and 10 touchdowns, according to football-reference.com. In addition, Kaepernick lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013. He may not have had elite numbers on par with other quarterbacks like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, but he did his job well. All of this leads to Kaepernick’s ultimate question: “Why can’t I get a job offer?”
On one hand, his reasoning makes sense. If that was the only side to it, I too would be baffled as to why Kaepernick cannot get another opportunity. But then you have to remember something about the NFL in general. It is a place that demands sacrifice of their players in almost every respect. Players sacrifice their bodies by playing a game that could cripple them for life. They sacrifice their minds by way of concussions and other brain damaging injuries. Since the NFL began, it has paralleled the military and
warfare, with players representing the soldiers on the front lines following orders from generals.
Keeping that analogy in mind, what happens when a soldier dissents from the ranks and begins speaking their own opinion? They might be branded as disloyal or even discharged from the force. The NFL owners could be trying to do the same thing to Kaepernick, which is what he is accusing them of. Perhaps some of them are, in fact, trying to punish him for speaking his mind on race.
I personally do not think all of the owners came together and decided to keep Kaepernick out of the league. I think some of them may have shied away because of the controversy surrounding him and his protest, and others may not have even bothered looking at him because they already employed a competent starting quarterback and backup. But that does not eliminate every single team in the league. Certainly, one owner could have decided to stand against him based on his beliefs.
But now the situation involves legal teams and millionaires throwing money at them, and that means every little secret, story, and scandal is about to be dug up on these owners and Kaepernick. Stories are going to be spun about how Kaepernick did not respond to teams who sent him emails or called him. He’ll refute those stories, while throwing confidential statements at them about when they made racist comments years ago, which will also be refuted. On top of this, every single major news network will jump on this story and offer their own biased opinions on why Kaepernick is a whiner or why the NFL owners are tyrants. And viewers are going to lap it up like dogs.
All of this would not bother me nearly as much as it does if not for one thing: the original intention of Kaepernick’s protest. When Kaepernick first took a knee, he was trying to bring everyone’s attention to racial injustice in America and police brutality against African-American citizens. What America needs right now is a not distraction from the real issues, but rather, conversations where both sides agree to hear the other out. Nothing will get accomplished in the way we are currently handling things. So please, do not watch the coverage of Kaepernick’s hearing or the TV show segments on the results of it. Have a conversation with someone who does not sit on the same of the fence as you and be willing to hear them out. Get out of your comfort zone. That is the only we are going to fix the divide that continues to pull our nation apart.
Cover photo by Sports Illustrated