One of the more significant hurdles for those trying to peddle Colin Kaepernick’s continued unemployment was finally broached by the NFL Players Association.
The narrow point of view that the former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback is without a job solely because of his social activism is a very difficult charge to prove, something NFLPA president Eric Winston admitted when speaking to Deadspin.
“You definitely get that feeling [that Kaepernick’s being singled out] — obviously, that’s very hard to prove and it’s very hard to show,” Winston admitted. “But, at the same time, for Christ’s sakes, you have an owner [Steve Bisciotti] out there publicly saying, ‘I’m polling fans to decide whether I should have this guy on my team or not.’ It’s obvious that owners are scared of [signing Kaepernick], are worried about it.”
Some owners are undoubtedly worried about signing Kaepernick. But some are not, and base their decisions on different criteria that have nothing to do with his high-profile national anthem protest from last season.
From the NFLPA’s perspective, it has never been shy to defend any of its players, even the ones who have been labeled as pariahs by most of society, including Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. So why has the union stayed silent when it comes to one of its members being treated so unfairly?
According to Winston, it’s because that’s exactly what Kaepernick wants.
“We’ve been in contact with Colin’s representatives, and we’ve let them know that we’re there and ready to help with whatever they’d like — whether it’s just some guidance on P.R. or whatever,” Winston claimed. “I know they’ve chosen to lay low, and I respect that. Every player has to make a decision on how they want the union’s help, and I completely understand that, and that’s fine. The union’s always stood ready to help him in any way that we need to.”
The Kaepernick quandary had always been a rather simple one for me. Certainly, his activism has been a detriment to his potential employment, but so is his fitness level, scheme limitations, injury history and declining play.
All those things have never been mutually exclusive, and they never will be.
To me, the biggest hole the Kaepernick supporters face is the status of players the likes of Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins and Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch.
You can make a strong argument that Jenkins has been more outspoken and certainly more substantive than Kaepernick when it comes to these matters, even testifying before Congress about police brutality toward African-Americans. The Pro Bowl safety also still engages in his own protest during the national anthem by raising a fist, the famed “Black power salute.”
Jenkins, however, remains a member of the Eagles in good standing for one major reason, and it’s not the fact that his owner, Jeffrey Lurie, is very left of center politically. It’s because he’s still a top-tier player.
The perception is the same for Lynch, who sat for the anthem during the Raiders’ preseason opener on Saturday night. But do not worry about searching for his name on the NFL’s transaction wire anytime soon, because he’s a big part of coach Jack Del Rio’s plans.
If Kaepernick was the same player he was in 2012 and 2013, the teams everyone seems to cite to “prove” his blackballing would be getting in line to sign him, even in the exact same ancillary circumstances.
The NFLPA being asked to stand down again points to an agenda for the Kaepernick camp that has nothing to do with football. After all, if the QB felt he was really being blacklisted and wanted back in the league, the only play would be to ask for the union’s help.
“We will continue to monitor that situation, we’ll continue to do anything that we can to make sure that he has another opportunity to play,” Winston said. “At the end of the day, that’s really it. We’re not going to force ourselves on a player. He’s calling the shots, he wants what he wants, and I respect that, and that’s what we’ll do.”
The key phrase there being “he wants what he wants.”
The perception of being barred from the NFL to a large segment of the casual audience is a better way to advance Kaepernick’s activism than proving it as folly by signing as a backup for limited money.
And Kaepernick wants what he wants.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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