With his collusion case against the NFL settled, owners will be tasked with a dilemma if Kaepernick still has the ability to help a team: offer him a job and risk alienating some fans, or deny him a job and risk infuriating players, other fans and media members.
Over the past year or so, Colin Kaepernick’s name always came up in some capacity. Usually, it was after a team signed an anonymous quarterback or alleged criminal.
Nathan Peterman and Reuben Foster have jobs but Kaep doesn’t?! you’d see on Twitter. That’s the NFL for you.
But aside from his signing with Nike, Kaepernick wasn’t a regular part of last season’s news cycle. You’d seldom see him on PTI’s countdown or ESPN.com’s front page.
Then this past month happened. First, he became entangled in a Super Bowl halftime controversy. Then he told the Alliance of American Football that he’d need $20 million to play in its league. Then, he and the NFL reached a settlement in his collusion case against the league.
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Just like 2016 — when Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality — it was Kaep everywhere you looked. Here’s a timeline, along with some thoughts.
1-14-19: After rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi were added to the Super Bowl halftime show, Kaepernick retweeted @leftsentthis, who wrote, “selling out is a choice.” This came on the same day that Kaep’s girlfriend, Nessa, tweeted “if you’re with them, then you are definitely not with us” above a screenshot of Urban Dictionary’s definition of sellout. One day later, Kaepernick retweeted radio host Ebro Darden, who profanely noted that Kaep did not approve of Scott agreeing to perform at the Super Bowl.
To me this is an unreasonable position. First, Big Boi is one of the most respected artists in hip-hop history and the antithesis to “sellout.” Former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley made this point on Fox Sports’ Speak For Yourself, incredulous that Kaepernick could cast such aspersions. But even if this was Will Smith, when did Kaepernick become the arbiter of who can perform and who can’t?
If an artist declined a Super Bowl invitation to stand in solidarity with Kaepernick, that’s fine. But for Kaep to blast someone for wanting to rap on the biggest stage in the world? That’s not activism, it’s bullying.
2-14-19: The Associated Press reported that the Alliance of American Football — which pays its players $225,000 over three years — talked to Kaepernick about playing quarterback, but that he said he’d do it only for $20 million.
I feel a simple “no thanks” would have been more palatable than a salary request Kaepernick knew would go unfulfilled, but I also understand why he opted not to sign. Kaepernick wasn’t out of an NFL job because teams doubted he could play in the league (although if he was seen as elite, I think he’d be playing) — he was out because teams didn’t want to risk headaches/revenue losses on a mediocre quarterback. I’ve seen opinions out there that Kaep not taking an AAF gig proves he’s more interested in martyrdom than he is playing football. I don’t think that’s the case.
Kaepernick tearing up players in a developmental league wouldn’t prove much, but an injury or poor showing would derail any chance he had at returning to the NFL. Like a projected No. 1 draft pick skipping the combine, this was probably the smart move.
2-15-19: It is announced that Kaepernick and the NFL reached a confidential settlement after he claimed that league owners had colluded to keep him out of a job.
A little less than a year ago, I wrote about various media reactions to allegations that former Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett had knocked over an elderly female security guard at the Super Bowl. The responses were predictable. People who disliked Bennett believed the accusations, and felt it confirmed his status as a bonafide jerk. People who liked Bennett were convinced it was a drummed-up charge made in response to his anti-police rhetoric. The reactions to Kaepernick’s settlement were similar.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, an outspoken supporter of the quarterback, said sources thought Kaepernick received between $60 million and $80 million as part of the settlement, but had nobody on the record. Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock, an outspoken critic of the quarterback, said he thinks Kaepernick’s desire to return to the NFL indicates he didn’t get anywhere close to what he wanted in the settlement.
This is the reality with Kaepernick. Love him or hate him, most people’s minds are made up and impervious to persuasion. The truth, however, is that none of us knows which side “won,” and we might never find out.
2-20-19 and on: We have no idea. I think in most NFL owners’ fantasies, Kaepernick would have played in the AAF, stunk up the league and proven himself unworthy of the next level. Not because they’re all necessarily unsympathetic to anything Kaepernick believes in, but because life is easier for them when he’s not a story.
NFL television ratings were up 5 percent last season from 2017, The Associated Press reported, and the league nearly doubled its streaming viewership. This was due to several factors, including: increased scoring, electrifying new stars such as Patrick Mahomes, and healthy quarterbacks. But I don’t think you can discount the fact that politics faded from the plot lines.
Instances of players kneeling during the national anthem were sparse and given little attention. Kaep wasn’t a regular subject of conversation. But with the collusion case settled, owners will be tasked with a business dilemma if Kaepernick still has the ability to help a team: offer him a job and risk alienating some fans, or deny him a job and risk infuriating players, other fans and media members.
Tens of millions of Americans disagree with each other about Kaepernick’s stances and approach to activism. Few will disagree that he is a phenomenon unique to modern-day sports.
He’s good for talk-show hosts and good for clicks.
But is he good for the NFL? Because that’s what his future will come down to.