Kaepernick's Possible Return

Football May 29, 2022

With so much division everyplace, let’s pivot to something less controversial — Colin Kaepernick.

That’s sarcasm.

If — or more like when — the outcast quarterback signs with an NFL team, likely to be the Las Vegas Raiders according to the latest reports, watch out for a deluge of historical revisionism. Yes indeed, the NFL media and PR machine will shift into overdrive attempting to rewrite its own ugly history. The ferocity of spin will mimic a tornado blazing across the heartland, utterly certain to obliterate everything in its path. The first casualty will be — the truth.

READ:  Colin Kaepernick Gets His Chance—and It’s Tough to Care

The Kaepernick situation is messy. It’s certainly been polarizing. Most sports news stories last only a few days, or maybe even a week. This has dragged out for years.

Unfortunately, it’s also deepened America’s tribal divide. Kaepernick may be the most prognostic topic of all. Depending on what you think of Kaepernick, that’s likely to reflect how you think, how you vote, and what you value. Walk into a bar anywhere in America and bring up weighty subjects like health care, or global warming, or the national debt, or a myriad of other critically important issues, and the response is typically little more than half-witted disinterest. But talk about Colin Kaepernick and heated arguments break out. Feelings that go far beyond football get wounded. Passions run deep.

What I’m about to write won’t please everyone. It might even anger everyone. I don’t see the Kaepernick issue in black and white, at all. It’s more like a vast field of grey. It’s complex. One thing we might all agree on is that Kaepernick’s checkered pro football career transcends boundaries way beyond sports. That’s what makes this such an interesting topic of conversation and debate. My thoughts:

(1) Kaepernick is no villain, but he’s no hero, either. His decision to follow his conscious was/is admirable. It’s also, strangely enough. so utterly American. However, as the spotlight continued to shine on Kaepernick and the heat turned up, he often melted under scrutiny and committed some appalling gaffes and misjudgments.

(2) I admire Kaepernick for kneeling. It was his right to kneel. That’s a respectful means of expression and protest that does not infringe upon the rights of others. For those who insist on “keeping politics out of sports,” well sorry. Sports have always reflected the country and the politics of its day. Let’s also acknowledge the fact that playing the National Anthem and coercing everyone to stand and sing is in itself — a political display. Engaging in forced patriotism, or worse, the adulation of military recruitment (let’s remember the U.S. Armed Forces PAYS the NFL for the right to participate in the flag ceremony–which I find astounding) is pure politics. Since the league organizes an unmistakable political statement prior to every game, individuals should also enjoy those same rights. Remarkably, the “pro-freedom” crowd only defends freedoms on subjects they agree with.

(3) Kaepernick has been a lousy spokesman for the cause. His actions have turned off lots of people (including me). I could list several missteps (remember the pig socks?), but they’ve already been well-documented. Making some mistakes is understandable for a young man in his 20s who’s faced unprecedented inquiry and criticism. Unfortunately, Kaepernick has repeatedly mishandled the spotlight. I believe this has diminished any possible gains from greater attention given to criminal justice inequities and law enforcement misconduct.

(4) Did Kaepernick deserve to be signed by an NFL team years ago, and should he be signed now? Yes and yes. While I’ve never been impressed with Kaepernick’s quarterbacking abilities and don’t view him as a starter, there’s absolutely no question he’s roster worthy. Playing NFL QB is the most difficult job in sports, and given his resume, stats, scouting reports, and his own history as a more than “capable” player, he clearly deserved to be signed someplace. All anyone has to do is look at the garbage dumpster of horrible NFL backups, let alone 3rd stringers, and Kaepernick’s talent far exceeds most of those other QBs who signed with teams.

(5) So, why wasn’t Kaepernick signed someplace and why has he missed at least five NFL seasons? Many owners, who tend to be conservative politically, don’t like Kaepernick. They oppose what he stands for, or maybe we should say, what he kneels for. No doubt, the consensus is he’s “a distraction.” However, I don’t buy this. Media scrutiny is intense in every NFL city. And there have been plenty of controversial players signed by teams in the past. It’s odd how Joe Namath wasn’t “a distraction” a generation ago when his off-the-field antics turned him into a folk hero. But Kaepernick supporting a cause is a distraction. This excuse doesn’t fly.

(6) Hypocrisy has no bounds in the NFL. This league has an appalling history of turning the other cheek and closing a blind eye on numerous players who have committed countless acts of violence, including domestic abuse. The wrist-slaps given to real criminals who were then welcomed back into locker rooms (many repeat offenders) while Kaepernick couldn’t even get a tryout for kneeling on an NFL sideline proves grotesque duplicity. Anyone want to explain how Deshaun Watson just signed a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, despite 22 lawsuits filed by women for assault?

(7) Kaepernick made a grave mistake insisting on a contract worthy of an NFL starter. Yes, he could make a valid argument he deserved big money a few years ago. Not anymore. Kaepernick should have faced the reality that the important thing was to get signed someplace. Just get on the field somewhere — and then contribute. History does teach us, that money usually comes. Controversial athletes sometimes become icons, but they have to be in the sport. Just ask Muhammed Ali.

(8) Las Vegas is the perfect “comeback city” for Kaepernick. Not only is this a destination for risk-takers and lives based on second chances, but it’s also home to the one NFL franchise with a well-deserved reputation built on signing rebels and displaying non-conformity. Nevada is purple politically, and a few loyal fans might be turned off by Kaepernick on the roster (unless he starts and wins–then they’ll forget the past). Las Vegas loves a show, and even if Kaepernick is doing nothing more than holding a clipboard on the sidelines, his presence probably adds to the whole spectacle.

(9) If he signs with the Raiders, Kaepernick would certainly be a backup, and possibly even the third-stringer during his comeback season. He might not even play a single down in the regular season. Not with Derek Carr coming off a record-breaking season. But I don’t think this is about Kaepernick winning games. Just being on the field with a jersey on his back is a win. One more thought: The Kaepernick “controversy” would quickly fade once games happen. Most fans won’t care about Kaepernick’s action six years ago, especially if he’s not starting.

(10) Finally, we’re back to “protecting the shield.” The NFL and its lapdog corporate sponsors and network partners will attempt to deflect their own guilt. They will try to re-write history. We must not let that happen.

Editor's Note:  This article reflects the opinions of the writer only, not the website or its ownership and management.