Monday, July 24, 2017

Unemployed Activist

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

A month before NFL training camps begin, former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick remains mysteriously unemployed. 

Considering only football-related factors, there’s no plausible explanation for his want of work.  Kaepernick boasts a career quarterback rating of 88.9, an impressive 72-30 touchdown passes to interceptions ratio and in February 2013 came within one goal line play of winning the Super Bowl.  What has he done lately?  Last season, with a talent-challenged 49ers team, Kaepernick threw 16 touchdown passes, just four interceptions and posted an impressive 90.7 quarterback rating. 

And yet, not one of the 32 NFL teams has signed Kaepernick this offseason.  To offer some context to this curious situation, here are a few employed backup quarterbacks: Sean Mannion (Rams), Geno Smith (Giants), Kellen Clemens (Chargers), Trevone Boykin (Seahawks) and, just for you Ravens fans, Ryan Mallett. 

Smith’s career quarterback rating is 72.4.  Clemens’s is 69.4 and he’s won just 8 of 21 starts.  Mallett slept through practice, missed a team flight and lost 3 of 4 starts with the Texans in 2015.  I’m unacquainted with the rest.  When we meet, introduce yourself as Sean Mannion; I won’t know the difference. 

So with no rational football argument for Kaepernick’s unemployment, what’s the dirty little secret?  As The Dude said, “This is a very complicated case…you know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s.”   

Call it public relations, brand protection or sensitivity to consumer concerns - package it however you want.  Just be sure to acknowledge what cannot be denied: Kaepernick remains unemployed because he decided to be socially and politically active last season and kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness of on-going oppression of minorities.  Now his on-field contributions don’t justify the perceived trouble accompany his employment. 

And with that, a statement: this isn’t about the issue fueling Kaepernick’s protest.  That’s been debated, picked over, marinated and cooked to a crisp.  Opinions are set.  Hopefully it advanced our country in a positive way. 

What is worthy of further consideration is why Kaepernick remains unemployed and what it says about tolerance of players choosing to be athletes and activists – a combination that has produced change agents like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali, Kathrine Switzer and Arthur Ashe.  The NFL, with its stated intent to “protect the shield”, didn’t want to be bothered and it might be/probably is using Kaepernick to send this message: no unnecessary controversy on our stage…we are the lords of pro football. 

Don’t miss the hypocrisy.  And really, how could you in time when certain people can say denigrating things about, well, just about anyone and suffer no consequences?  The NFL waved off Ray Rice and is apparently doing the same with Kaepernick while it continues to employ the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Adam Jones, Michael Floyd and Sheldon Richardson, players with rap sheets that should be universally offensive and actually do erode the NFL’s brand.  Just last year, Goodell, with a wink and a giggle, suspended Richardson for one game after he went on a 143 mph joy ride in his Bentley.  After being pulled over, police detected the odor of marijuana, found a semi-automatic handgun and discovered a 12-year-old passenger.  What a role model!  And while we’re pondering the transgressions of NFL players, do not forget the league’s very dubious (mis)handling of concussion data – likened to the tobacco’s industry’s statistical manipulations – and the $765M settlement it paid out to former players in 2013.

Amidst this ethical and moral ooze, Kaepernick, a man who has been genuine and thought-provoking about his anthem protest and who is an all-star philanthropist, is the great villain the NFL would prefer to see eradicated from its payroll?  Whatever brand protection the league sought post-protest has been undone by the wall Big Brother NFL and Party leader Goodell built between Kaepernick and the football field.  Kaepernick shouldn’t be ostracized, he should be appreciated for his social awareness and lauded for courage to act (more athletes should).  At the very least, he should be employed.  That he’s not is an indictment of the NFL and the skewed value system it perceives exists in its patrons.  Does it?  

No comments:

Post a Comment