Before the 2016 NFL season began, general managers agreed that Colin Kaepernick was the 29th best quarterback in the NFL. There are close to 100 quarterbacks on team rosters when the NFL season starts. So what happened between then and now in the world of Colin Kaepernick? Well, for one, he beat out 49ers starter Blaine Gabbert for a starting position. He played a serviceable few games as a starter. Both of these facts should have elevated Kaep at least a few spots in the eyes of GMs across the league. So what happened? You know the answer: Colin Kaepernick opted to sit during the playing of the National Anthem before games and then later chose to take a knee during the song.
Kaepernick has already, in great detail, explained the reasoning behind his decision. He wants to bring light to injustices this country has perpetrated against subjugated people, and he’s putting his money where his protest is by donating a million dollars to various charities in the process. Of course his move has offended many. By “many” I mean pretty much exclusively white people. They’ve used the guise of “respect for the troops” to disparage Kaep’s intentions but it’s clear what the posturing has only one intention: to silence black people. There has never in the history of this country been a protest initiated by a black man or woman in America that has been embraced as acceptable. That doesn’t exist. And Colin Kaepernick is just the latest casualty of that fact.
So I expected a segment of this country to only want to see Kaep fail no matter what. What’s been surprising, though it probably shouldn’t be, is the way the NFL has been so complicit in his exile. Colin Kaepernick is still a top-30 quarterback and he can’t find a team to sign him, even as a backup. Meanwhile, horrible quarterbacks keep getting picked up by teams. Perennial turnover machine Ryan Fitzpatrick is a backup in Tampa Bay, who runs an offense that would be perfect for Kaep if starter Jameis Winston got hurt. Mark Sanchez (Bears), Geno Smith (Giants) and Landry Jones (Steelers) are all objectively worse quarterbacks than Colin Kaepernick and they are playing for teams that wouldn’t even give him a tryout.
The only team to actually work him out was the Seattle Seahawks and they opted for mediocre Austin Davis because Kaep was overly qualified for a backup position, whatever that means. So let’s get rid of the notion that Kaepernick’s inability to get on a team has anything to do with actual skill. Because somehow he’s simultaneously too good to be a backup and not good enough to be a backup. It’s like magic. This is a concerted effort to blackball a black athlete for speaking up about equal rights. This is a societal problem and an NFL problem.
The NFL is 70 percent black, but the faces of the league, the high-dollar quarterbacks, are mostly white. So the league and its fans hold on to an all-American lust for the championship white athlete. Just look at how much drama surrounded Cam Newton two years ago when he was scrutinized for simply being a black quarterback — before his trip to the sunken place. White owners even alluded to how much they hated Kaep by comparing him to Rae Carruth.
It’s not just the owners who have been complicit in the blackballing. Commissioner Roger Goodell has turned a willfully blind eye to the situation by continuing a fabrication that owners and general managers are passing on Kaep for football-related reasons. This is the same Roger Goodell who, just a couple of weeks ago, parroted an archaic and draconian justification for criminalizing marijuana based on racially-motivated misinformation:
“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use. Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered. And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”
It’s just bad business for someone who’s the decision-maker in a league full of black players to believe in false information whose main purpose is to criminalize those who look like the players he’s supposedly governing. And it’s another reason to believe Goodell has no problem seeing someone like Kaepernick become exiled from the league permanently.
That’s why the Colin Kaepernick situation is about more than an isolated event. It’s about a league, from every level beyond the players themselves, conspiring to keep someone out of the football for simply speaking up for people of color and offending white folks — sorry for being redundant. Let’s not forget that child-abuser Adrian Peterson is back in the league. Domestic Abuser Josh Brown is in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is a celebrated star. And just yesterday, the pro-confederate flag singer Hank Williams, Jr., who once compared President Obama to Hitler was welcomed back to perform the opening to Monday Night Football. The NFL has drawn its line in the sand and that line is somewhere beyond abuse of women and right before pro-blackness.
Maybe it’s too late and I dropped the ball by not turning my back on the NFL before. I should probably feel ashamed of myself for continuing to support an organization that has continued to re-sign players who beat women and children. A league that has shown that greed is more important than the well-being of its players. And a league that has tried to discredit real research on concussions just to turn a buck. Maybe Kaep is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Whatever the case, this is where I draw the line. I’m not watching a single minute of NFL football until Colin Kaepernick is on a team. And even then, I’m not sure I would still support an NFL that’s so morally bankrupt. Sure the NFL probably won’t miss me. I’m just one guy. But I’ve got to stand for something. It’s what Colin Kaepernick has taught me to do.