The NFL is a business, and given the potential for blowback from fans and locker-room distractions, you can understand why teams would think twice about bringing aboard Kaepernick — the face of a movement that, right or wrong, has caused many to seethe.
So the Seahawks asked Colin Kaepernick what his social-activism plans were, he said he didn’t know, the team postponed a workout as a result, and just like that the most polarizing sports story of the century refilled its gas tank.
Pundits are sounding off. Cries of injustice swirl social media. The NFL once again is mired in controversy.
But it shouldn’t be — because the Seahawks did nothing wrong.
Given today’s accusatory climate, I should probably offer some background before writing any further. In 2016, I supported Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem, arguing that controversy is the most efficient means of getting attention. I later wrote a column that Kaepernick’s activism shouldn’t keep teams from hiring him, and then another column that he would be an ideal fit as Russell Wilson’s backup.
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I never thought a protester with a clean record should be blacklisted while a few dozen NFL players are arrested every year. But it doesn’t matter what I think. If you’re an NFL team owner, it mainly matters what your fans and players think.
Regardless of the tone of the story, there is no name that prompts more flooding of a sportswriter’s inbox than Colin Kaepernick’s. He is the face of a movement that, right or wrong, has caused a significant portion of America to seethe.
A J.D. Power poll released last year said 26 percent of people who watched fewer NFL games than usual did so because of player protests.
A Rasmussen poll released three months later said 34 percent of American adults were less likely to watch the NFL due to protests.
Owners can’t ignore these numbers. Acknowledging them doesn’t automatically make them greedy or unsympathetic to the protesters’ cause. The NFL is still a business, and given the enormous potential for blowback within a fan base and distractions within a locker room, you can understand why teams would think twice about bringing Kaepernick aboard.
Despite all that, though, the Seahawks have reached out … twice!
They were the only team to have him work out for them last year, and even though Kaep has filed a lawsuit accusing the NFL of collusion last October, the Seahawks have been the only team to entertain the idea of working him out since.
They just wanted to know what his plans regarding activism — including kneeling during the anthem — would be going forward. Kaepernick reportedly said he didn’t know, so they postponed the workout.
Can you really blame the Seahawks? Can you fault them for worrying that a backup quarterback who hasn’t played since 2016 might alienate a huge chunk of their fan base? I certainly can’t.
Over the past couple years — whether it be with friends, family members or cabdrivers — I’ve spent a lot of time trying to remove labels people put on protesters.
Many see them as an unappreciative, military-and-police-hating monolith that is spitting on our nation’s values. Anyone who has spent time talking or listening to these players knows that isn’t true.
But I also think much of the pro-Kaepernick side sees the anti-Kaepernick side as another kind of monolith — one that just isn’t interested in the plight of the black community. That isn’t true, either.
Some just don’t want to see politics mixed with sports, in the same way they don’t want every Oscar winner giving them a political lecture. Some think the protests are contributing to an unfair anti-police climate, which could impact the effectiveness in which cops do their jobs. Some know the players aren’t trying to disrespect veterans, but are doing it nonetheless.
Rarely is a group just one thing. Same goes for individuals.
Colin Kaepernick is a dedicated activist who has given more than $1 million to charity, handed out custom suits to parolees and started a national conversation that many feel was long overdue.
He also has compared modern police to fugitive slave patrols, worn “pig” socks mocking cops, donned a T-shirt supporting Fidel Castro, all while refusing to vote in the presidential election.
Don’t tell me all that put together wouldn’t cause some Seahawks fans to say “no thanks.”
Kaepernick is a complicated man, but the questions the Seahawks asked him weren’t.
I defend the answer he gave them. I defend their reluctance to sign him, too.