Our long national nightmare was almost over. Word came down last week that the NFL was going to hold a workout for former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick on behalf of teams that were “interested” in employing him. Kaep has been unemployed since opting out of his 49ers contract in March 2017. For some reason, other NFL teams were not interested in employing a quarterback who had led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and several other playoff berths. Kaep couldn’t even get a back-up QB job, while NFL teams continue to employ the likes of Robert Griffin, Brian Hoyer, Matt Moore, Josh McCown, Colt McCoy, and Blake Bortles on rosters despite lengthy resumes of failure.
So finally action was being taken to potentially return Kaepernick to an NFL roster. Or was it? As we’ve all heard by now, issues arose between the NFL and Kaepernick over a waiver and other issues. The NFL workout in Atlanta was cancelled by Kaep and he instead went forward with his own public workout at a high school. The media has been severely divided over this situation. Some have argued that Kaep should have gone forward with the workout despite the issues that arose, while others say the NFL workout was a sham and Kaep was right to refuse to do it. So what happened and who is at fault over this situation?
To understand, we have to start back in 2016. At the time, there had been a number of deaths of innocent people of color caused by law enforcement sparking the Black Lives matter movement. During the NFL’s 2016 preseason, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem because he did not want to show pride for this country’s flag while African-Americans were being murdered by the police and getting away with it. Kaep’s action sparked outrage even when he switched to kneeling during the anthem at the suggestion of former NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer as a way to pay respect to veterans while still protesting the social injustices that were occurring. A few teammates and other players began joining Kaep’s kneeling protest though. To demonstrate his devotion to his cause, Kaepernick donated a million dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities and started the Know Your Rights Camp to teach disadvantaged youth about the history of social injustice, people’s rights, and self-empowerment.
After the end of the 2016 football season, Kaepernick and the 49ers parted ways. Despite being in his prime and being a quarterback with a history of success, no other NFL team signed Kaepernick. This was particularly curious given the rise of similar mobile quarterbacks likes Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Lamar Jackson. Clearly, Kaepernick was better than at least 50% of the quarterbacks with jobs in the NFL, but NFL owners were refusing to employ him because he was a vocal opponent of police-caused deaths of African-Americans. NFL owners were cowed by some outcry–spurred on in no small part by incessant anti-Kaepernick tweets by the president–over a non-violent protest.
When it became clear that he was being blackballed by the NFL, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the league in October 2017, accusing the owners of collusion in refusing to even work him out, much less sign him. That grievance was settled earlier this year. Because of a confidentiality clause in the agreement, the details of the settlement have not been disclosed. Without seeing the agreement though, I can tell you that the agreement surely contained two specific clauses. One, the settlement only covered the NFL’s collusive actions up to the date of the settlement. And two, the NFL would not prevent any team from working out and signing Kaepernick to a contract thereafter.
So what has happened since the settlement was reached last February? A fat lot of nothing, that’s what. No team has brought Kaepernick in for a workout, despite a number of serious quarterback injuries that have occurred this season. Not. One. Team. You can be sure that word has filtered from Kaep’s camp to Roger Goodell that the collusion to keep him out of the league had continued and Kaepernick was considering a new grievance for the post-settlement collusion. So if you did not understand why the NFL suddenly offered a workout to Colin Kaepernick last week, now you know why.
As soon as word about the possible workout got out, the NFL PR machine went into high gear. There were stories about how a number of teams were interested in him, but wanted the cover of an NFL workout, instead of a team workout, to gauge whether Kaepernick was in shape. There were stories about every NFL team being invited to the workout and that 25 teams were planning to send representatives and that the NFL would video the workout and send it to all 32 teams. There were even stories that the NFL wanted Kaepernick back in the league.
As we now know, the planned “workout” fell through and Kaepernick ended up doing his own workout at a high school. The NFL PR machine continued to try to steamroll the narrative. Word was that Kaep was not truly serious about returning to the NFL, he wouldn’t sign a standard workout waiver, was more interested in making a political statement (apparently because he wore a Kunta Kinte t-shirt to the workout but not during the workout), and he was trying to set up the NFL for another grievance. Let’s examine the known facts that have come out since last week’s workout fiasco:
- Kaepernick was not told about a possible workout until the Tuesday prior to the planned Saturday workout. He asked for additional time and the NFL refused.
- The workout was planned for a Saturday despite in-seasons workouts by teams being universally held on Tuesdays. That’s because teams are deep into Sunday game preparations on Saturdays and don’t want other Saturday distractions. That meant that any team personnel who would show up to Kaep’s workout would be far down the authority list.
- Kaepernick asked for a list of the personnel who he would be working out with in advance of the workout. The NFL refused to provide the list.
- Kaepernick asked to be allowed to film the workout himself because he was worried that the NFL would edit their video of the workout in a way where he would not look good. The NFL not only refused this request, but threw a major corporate sponsor, Nike, under the bus by saying that Kaep’s video of the workout would be used for a Nike commercial. Nike demanded that the NFL retract that statement as completely false.
- After the request to film the workout himself was denied, Kaep asked that the media be allowed to watch the workout so that his readiness to play could be fairly reported. This too was denied.
- The “standard” workout waiver turned out not to be standard after all and included new clauses with enough ambiguity in them that, if Kaepernick were to sign the waiver, he might be prevented from bringing a future grievance or lawsuit against the NFL. As one of Kaepernick’s lawyers put it, it would have been malpractice for him to advise Kaep to sign the waiver. Kaep’s lawyers revised the waiver to account for their concerns, but the NFL refused the modifications.
Put yourself in Kaepernick’s shoes for a moment. Everything about this situation screams “SHAM!” It looks like the NFL is trying to trick you into signing away your rights to come after them for their continued collusion against you. Do you, as some members of the sports media have suggested, go ahead and sign the waiver and hope that some team signs you? Or do you refuse to sign the waiver and put on your own workout instead. I know what I would do and that’s exactly what Kaep did. At his own workout, the press was invited, as well as the representatives of any NFL team. As a result, we all got to see the film of the workout on Saturday, which showed that Kaep is both in shape and still has a strong arm.
So what happens now? Unless one or more NFL teams step up and bring in Kaepernick for their own workouts and one of them finally signs him, it appears inevitable that Kaep will bring another grievance or lawsuit against the NFL for continuing collusion. For whatever reason, NFL owners seem more concerned over the backlash that might result from signing a player who had the audacity to kneel during the national anthem than they are over a backlash for employing domestic abusers, rapists, drug users, and even players convicted of manslaughter (Leonard Little & Donte Stallworth, look it up). You can’t make this stuff up. The NFL continues to lose my respect.