How The NFL Trained You To Hate Colin Kaepernick – And Why We Need Him

The Evolution of Colin Kaepernick As A Man, Prompted The NFL To Make You Believe He’s Declined As A Player

Last  year, on an August evening in San Francisco, one onlooker with a Twitter account caught a moment in time that still resonates in sports history to this very date. Colin Kaepernick, nestled in between two Gatorade coolers, sat as everyone else stood while the National anthem played throughout Levi’s Stadium before a preseason game against the Packers.

 

When questioned later on his stance, (heh, or lack thereof) he stated it was to protest the astounding number of unarmed Black men shot by policemen during that year, and to represent his solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He did what no one else in the NFL WOULD do, which was bring a voice to the movement, even though he knew the majority of the league supported the movement. He had lost the ability to bullshit his feelings any longer.

 

However, players knew he would pay the price.


There is a scene in the movie
Jerry Maguire where Maguire (Tom Cruise’s character) decides to write a mission statement entitled ‘The Things We Think, And Do Not Say’. After he is struck by an epiphany, he composes a call of action to all his fellow employees at a lucrative sports agency. He writes lines like ‘how we are meant to protect [our clients] in health, and in injury… we have forgotten what was important’ and ‘more attention; caring for ourselves’.  He continues to explain that he has ‘lost the ability to bullshit; it was the ‘me’ I’ve always wanted to be.’  He inserts a copy of his mission statement into all of the agents’ mailboxes that night. The next morning he arrives to their raucous applause, with  exclamations like ‘Good work, Maguire!’, and ‘Finally, somebody said it!!” In that applause, two agents converse, regarding Maguire’s future at the company:

 

“How long do you give him?”

“About a week.”

 

Shortly thereafter, (SPOILER ALERT), Maguire is fired from the company.

This reminds me of Colin Kaepernick.
People may say the term ‘blackballed’ is inapplicable to the case of Colin Kaepernick. Some may call it pure conjecture; the wheels of March free agency have just started to spin and owners are waiting for other teams to make moves before they make their own. But quarterbacks are already getting snatched up. Mike Glennon (yes, THAT Mike Glennon) just got PAID. So why not Kap?

 

The reality is that we shouldn’t be surprised at the fact that athletes are losing opportunities to continue their career due to the choices they have made to publicly address social injustices. Just ask Craig Hodges

and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

how their lives were after they decided to speak out on issues they thought were important to them and their communities. The performance of said players were heavily scrutinized. Contracts were promised, and then rescinded. Past injuries and age was brought up and called into question, when for other players that was a modest concern. These men sacrificed millions of dollars and the livelihood of their families to bring to light what their peers avoided or approached with great trepidation and a meticulous nature.

 

The Man On The Field

Dissenters of Colin Kaepernick would solely point to his performance on the field as why he should be irrelevant to the discussion of him taking a roster spot on any NFL team.

His overall completion rate is less than sixty percent, which is below average for the typical NFL quarterback, to the layman. Over his entire career, he averages less than 200 yards per game. He has only played a full 16 games in two out of six seasons. ‘Why are we talking about this guy?’ some would argue.

 

In the beginning of his career, and during his meteoric rise in popularity, he was a young, brash quarterback that played with his hair on fire; ran before he threw, flexed and kissed his biceps after every score, and saved all his negative Twitter comments to his ‘Favorites’ section as gasoline to dump on said fire.

For the first four seasons of his career, his QB ranking was over 90 percent, and the game plan was always anchored by the read option he regularly exercised (and worked). He was playing to prove everyone who doubted him wrong. He played to WIN, and NOTHING else mattered.
Then Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco and was replaced with a walrus named Jim Tomsula, left in charge to manage the team. Players left, either by trades, suspensions or retirements, and the 49ers organization underwent a massive decline.

Surely the quarterback who led the team to three straight NFC championship games would right the ship, believed the consensus. The offensive line over the next two years would become a sieve, and Colin Kaepernick struggled because of it. The team lost whatever identity it had, and the overall success of the franchise cratered in only a space of two years. And Kap did what all good quarterbacks do; he shouldered the blame of every loss.

After the act of sitting during the National Anthem, people even went so far as to question his motives for doing so, saying he did so only as a publicity stunt to be relevant in the mainstream media again. Even if his motive was as nefarious as stated, it’s not like it benefited him any. People took sides, vehemently, of course. Although those who supported the action were refreshed to see an athlete use his platform to bring to light important socio-political issues, (even those who didn’t support the physical action respected the reasons of which he chose to do so), those who opposed the action saw it as disrespect to the military and the contributions of veterans, which Kaepernick expressed multiple times was not his reason, nor his intention. As he continued to tweak his protest tactics, switching from sitting apart from his teammates, to kneeling beside them, and in a couple times being joined by them and opposing players (Denver’s Brandon Marshall lost two endorsement deals due to a kneel of solidarity with Kap) people came further polarized in what they thought of Colin Kaepernick. Even though his stance was literally altered, he stayed stoic, consistent, and most important to the discussion, peaceful with his message.

 

Any football expert who has watched an hour of game tape can tell you that Kap has gotten better this year, not worse. In the year 2016, playing for an abysmal team with a lackluster receiving core, he had his most prolific season of the previous four, getting back into that 90 percentile, and throwing 4 touchdowns for every 1 interception. His QB rating of last year ranks higher than that of those like Brock Osweiler, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, past Super Bowl champions like Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco, and even the Superman himself, Cam Newton.

 

But no lie, Colin Kaepernick is no Cam Newton. While he is excelling, he’s not playing lights-out ball or anything, which is what dissenters of Kaepernick and his message have been stating as the primary reason for him not being on a team yet. There is some truth to that. Jim Brown became increasingly politically active; that was only after he retired from Cleveland, but he coulda said whatever back then. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam, was fervently politically active, and the Lakers were not going to trade one the top five elite players of that time. And we all know the role Muhammad Ali played on the role of anti-war activism and overall Black empowerment in the country in his heyday. Performance outweighs principles in all sports, is the underlying belief.

 

That may also be the problem as well. This goes back to the notion that a Black individual must exceed all leaps and bounds with overwhelming success to even have our voices held to the same importance as an average white male’s. That we must be the very absolute BEST at whatever we do to even have our opinion considered as valid. To paraphrase the incomparable Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barack Obama had to graduate from Harvard at the top of his class to even be considered President, whereas Trump only had to be rich and white.

Speaking of Dolt 45, he continues to say seriously stupid shit, this time about Kap.

But I digress.

 

Why do we refuse the service of one who may inconvenience a company due to his stance on a certain issue, but not one who inconveniences the life of a young woman when he abuses her, and ONLY when that abuse is exposed by the national press? Why is the league reactionary on the issue of domestic violence, but proactive in its attempts to stifle and diminish Kaepernick’s message? The memes have a point.

 

 

The Man Off The Field

The overall truth is that his numbers should not make Kap’s point less salient, that underlying point being our American government is not doing enough for the people of our inner-city communities. After that small gesture of not making any gesture towards the American flag, Kaepernick has devoted most (if not all) of his time to community outreach and to raising donation funds for various organizations, to do whatever in his physical power to make a greater America.

Colin Kaepernick has also now been forever linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that been on life support for the past few months.

His jersey sales went through the roof after his peaceful protest, was the top selling jersey of 2016, and was worn by allied marchers in various demonstrations that swept the nation during that year. And when your jersey is featured in the wokest Mannequin Challenge of the year, what else are you supposed to think?

 

Colin Kaepernick may not be your favorite player, or your favorite person. To others, he stands for something greater. Not only does he symbolize positive civil disobedience and Black empowerment to certain facets, he inspires some to be the best ‘me’ they can be; to utilize the tools at your disposal to create the change in the world that YOU want to see, because of the belief you have in yourself to MAKE that change. And damn the consequences. He is more than a football player now. He has transcended the sport.

 

And how refreshing is it to see a professional football athlete that ISN’T spending money on his third yacht, while draped in gaudy chains and the fur of an endangered animal (not that I’m casting any aspersions on anyone else; live your life, playas). Isn’t this what the NFL and its audience ask from the players? To respect and honor the shield, and the eight attributes its stars represent? To inspire betterness both on and off the field? To be expected to be positive role models? Or are these expectations only valid and permissible when concerning a subject the owners and commissioner of the NFL agrees and aligns with?

 

If none of the 32 teams in the NFL offer Colin Kaepernick a remedial contract at the very least, it will constitute as a grave injustice and further perpetuate the belief that its Black players and audience members have had from the very beginning of the integration of professional sports; that the players should be seen and not heard, that the individual and his views are invalid to that of the team’s, that a player should be gracious and more than ecstatic to receive the fruits of labor that the organization provides, and that speaking out against any part of said organization proves one to be a malcontent, a distraction to the team’s goals, a traitor to the group’s cause, and a cancer which should be immediately removed from the group. The fieldhands are to be silent as the cotton is gathered.

Or they will be shot.

What will prove to be the undoing for these (white) owners of sports groups and athletic directors of prominent organizations is the assumption that Black athletes will stay silent or capitulate in this present political climate where minorities are more than ever feeling marginalized and cynical of their place in this country.

Permit me for a moment to call on my brothers to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, for his advancement is also your own; to be free to enrich these communities with the funds that are not at government disposal, and speak out against the injustices of this nation for those without microphones and computers. If he benefits, so do we all. If he can freely, so can we all. If he can make change freely, then so can we all. Because we need someone right now to say the shit that he’s saying. And if all 1,696 players of every team kneel with Kap, then they all can’t be fired. Let them try.

 

We will NOT be silenced. We will find ways to make our cases known. People, rich and poor, will notice the injustice. People will stand by. People will listen. Those who are presently doing the work should be celebrated or at least respected, and not denigrated or muzzled.

You can choose to turn away from the issues.

And we will know where you stand.


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