Colin Kaepernick’s Protest

It shouldn’t take the death of George Floyd for Kaepernick to be signed by an NFL team.

Jim Rome
June 02, 2020 - 11:54 am
Colin Kaepernick

USA Today

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Brandon Marshall, a friend of Colin Kaepernick’s and a friend of the show, peacefully protested excessive use of police force during the 2016 season. He said yesterday "Back then, we were called rogues, people said that we didn't deserve jobs, but this is what we were talking about then. I think people are looking at [Kaepernick] now like, 'OK, maybe he knew.' People didn't want to hear the message after, 'Oh, they were kneeling.' They didn't want that message, weren't ready for it, didn't listen.

I hope, and I look at it, I hope people are ready for the message. I really hope they're ready for change.''

I hope so too, but it should not have taken the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor for Kaepernick and Marshall to be justified.

Former NFL executive Joe Lockhart also has a take on Colin Kaepernick. Lockhart was the league's executive vice president in charge of communications and government affairs from 2016-2018 and he writes: When I was an executive in the National Football League a few years ago, our organization was consumed by the case of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose silent kneeling protest against police brutality arguably led him to lose his NFL career and not be re-signed by any club. No teams wanted to sign a player -- even one as talented as Kaepernick -- whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business.

In other words, exactly what had been said for a long time – that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t being signed due to his protest, not his talent. None of it had anything to do with his talent. It wasn’t about any of the junk that people spewed at the time – it had nothing to do with his arm, or his leadership ability or his contract, or anything like that. It was about his protest of racist police brutality.

But the thing is, we knew that all along. Even the people who tried to come up with other reasons knew it. That’s why the argument kept changing every few weeks. His arm isn’t good enough. He’s not accurate enough. He doesn’t want to be a backup. He doesn’t really want to play football. The list goes on.

And it was clear when guys with serious off-field issues kept getting chances when Kaepernick didn’t. Or when guys who are clearly not on his level as a quarterback, kept getting opportunities.

As Lockhart writes, he was focused on the money that the league was spending to address racial inequality and he thought that was good, even if Kaepernick remained unsigned. And he now knows he was wrong: “I know now it was not enough just to spend money to make progress on the issue of racial disparities. That is crucial, but so are symbols that reflect that attempt at progress - and also the failure to reach it. And Colin Kaepernick became the symbol of black men being treated differently than white men in America.

That symbol of racial injustice was reinforced every day that Colin sat on the outside of the football world. It may have seemed like a good business decision for the clubs to not sign him, and it certainly wasn't illegal, but it was wrong.”

That is a significant acknowledgement by a former league executive. But Lockhart’s next step is kind of a weird one.

“The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice. As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.”

I see where Lockhart is going, kind of, sort of, not really. And I don’t want to dump all over it, but man, that is a weird conclusion to come to. It is really weird to witness what happened to Colin Kaepernick over the last few years and then what has happened in Minneapolis over the last week and say that the Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick.

And to say that would be “the right thing to do. And it’s something the city – and all of America – needs right now.”

I don’t want to completely wreck the idea because Colin Kaepernick should be in the league, so I don’t want it getting twisted that way.

But that feels like a total spin job. Colin Kaepernick is more than qualified to be in the NFL right now. And as Lockhart points out, the fact that he isn’t continues to be a bad look for the league.

But the Vikings signing him, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd seems like a strange conclusion to come to. Like “hey, look, Minnesota signed Colin Kaepernick. Racism is over!”

It shouldn’t take more racist police brutality for people to learn that Colin Kaepernick was right. And it shouldn’t take the death of George Floyd for Colin Kaepernick to be signed by an NFL team.