Colin Kaepernick is talented enough to be on an NFL roster. That shouldn’t even be open to discussion. In 12 games for an awful 49ers team last season, he had 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions. He has an 88.9 career passer rating.
But he doesn’t have a job, almost surely because he knelt during the national anthem last year in protest of what he thinks is the poor treatment of African-Americans in U.S. society. Apparently, this is much more frightening to NFL teams than the garden-variety league issues of domestic violence and assault and battery. A fist to the face is better than a knee on the ground. That seems to be the mindset.
I would have much more respect for owners, general managers and coaches if they said publicly that they find Kaepernick’s views about race and society too disruptive to their locker rooms or bottom lines. Or even that they find those views personally offensive. But they don’t. They don’t say anything, for the most part. From their silence, we’re supposed to infer that he’s a lesser quarterback not worthy of a spot on any team’s depth chart.
The most galling aspect of the whole affair is how many NFL players have done truly unconscionable things yet continue to be gainfully employed. The message — and it can’t be repeated too often — is that it’s OK to beat up your wife or girlfriend if you’re a talented football player, but it’s not OK to protest the plight of African-Americans.
A public display of social activism is the one act owners can’t abide? Really? It’s ironic that nonviolence would so unnerve a bunch of people involved in a violent sport.
Plenty of fans are upset by what they perceive as Kaepernick’s lack of patriotism, and that’s their right. But as talk-show host Dan Patrick asked recently, how many of the people screaming at the quarterback didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election? Based on the fact that 100 million eligible voters didn’t fill out a ballot, my guess is a lot. Not voting doesn’t sound very American to me. Taking a knee in protest during the national anthem is free speech in action.
For those of you tearing down other quarterbacks’ skills to promote Kaepernick’s, stop. You’re taking your eye off the target. The people in charge are to blame for not having the courage to sign a controversial player who has some skills. Other quarterbacks aren’t to blame for having jobs. When Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and others list all the players who aren’t as good as Kaepernick, they play right into the misdirection.
Some of Kaepernick’s backers were frustrated this week when the Dolphins signed Jay Cutler, who has been a monument to inconsistency in his career. But it’s a bad fit, logic-wise. Cutler had a good season in 2015, when Adam Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator. Gase is now the Dolphins’ coach. When Ryan Tannehill went down with a knee injury in camp last week, the Dolphins needed a quarterback who knew their system. Cutler was the perfect first choice. End of story.
Again, keep your eye on the ball. The focus should be on owners, GMs and coaches who are worried about whatever it is they’re worried about. Do they really think football-crazy fans are going to stop watching games because a backup quarterback takes a knee during the anthem? I don’t. And for all the flag-waving the league does with halftime shows honoring the military, is quashing the First Amendment the kind of America it wants to promote? OK, bad question. The league will promote whatever version of America brings it the most money.
The NFL gets very nervous when talk turns to the possibility of collusion among owners. You don’t have to be a mathematician to see that collusion equals lawsuit.
‘‘There are certain issues, obviously, that go along with Colin Kaepernick and that may have scared some teams away, but there is absolutely no blackball going on here,’’ Giants co-owner John Mara said recently. ‘‘I just don’t see that at all.’’
He’s probably right, but only because something as obvious as a blackball is unnecessary. All these rich people think so much alike on topics such as Kaepernick’s activism that there’s no need for them to hatch a plan together.
Movie director Spike Lee has endorsed a rally Aug. 23 outside NFL headquarters in New York to protest Kaepernick’s treatment. It probably won’t have any impact.
If, on the other hand, a corporate sponsor threatened to pull its advertising, watch how quickly commissioner Roger Goodell would get a team to sign Kaepernick. But the same people who run corporations rub elbows with the people who own teams. If it sounds like a club, it’s because it is.
And Kaepernick isn’t part of that one, either.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.