While fans may hate Colin Kaepernick because he didn’t stand for the national anthem in 2016, the NFL has shunned him for a fundamentally different reason. Indeed, plenty of other players didn’t stand for the anthem during the 2016 season, and most of them remain gainfully employed.
They remain gainfully employed because none of them became the name and face of the movement. Kaepernick did, and he’s the one paying for it with his career.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has become the highest-profile player to recognize this hiding-in-plain-sight reality, in comments to Jarrett Bell of USA Today.
“What is it about?” Sherman said. “It’s not about football or color. It’s about, ‘Boy, stay in your place.’”
“Not a lot of guys are willing to step out there,” Sherman added. “So the guys not speaking up for him are doing him a disservice. There should be a lot more guys saying something. Most guys are like, ‘I don’t want my job to end up the same way.'”
Sherman told Bell that Kaepernick would have been a great fit in Seattle, but the Seahawks decided not to sign him. At least the Seahawks didn’t engage in an awkward, clumsy, slow-motion crowdsourcing exercise aimed at determining whether fans and sponsors would revolt before deciding whether to offer him a job.
“For you to say you have to check with sponsors and fans because this guy took a knee and made a statement?” Sherman said regarding the Ravens’ apparently ongoing deliberations. “Now if you told me this guy threw eight pick-sixes last year and played like a bum, had no talent, that’s one thing. But Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett or whoever is playing for the Jets right now — whoever is starting for the Jets is terrible — have jobs. You’re telling me fans would rather you lose and put a worse player out there because a guy took a stand? That’s where it’s so troublesome to me. . . .
“Blake Bortles has shown you enough to where you don’t think Kaep would be a solid fit? Kaep has won games.”
Yes he has. He has nearly won a championship. But team personnel throughout the league have been feeding “football only” nonsense to willing members of the media who pass it along happily to the public because they either don’t like what Kaepernick did or they hope to curry favor with their sources.
For months, the “football only” narrative had prevailed. Baltimore’s decision to be somewhat transparent unwittingly has exposed what’s really happening.
The owners want players to realize that they don’t own the fields, the stadiums, the uniforms, the logos. The teams possess and power the platform, and they choose to let the players occupy it. They’re not going to let players occupy it who step out of line in a way that both triggers criticism from the public and prompts other players to follow suit.
That was Kaepernick’s biggest sin, in the eyes of the vast majority of the league: He did something that caused other players to become aware of their rights, and to act on them.
Everything else that’s been said about Kaepernick is excuse-making and window dressing, no different from the Commissioner dealing with CTE concerns by essentially saying “yeah, but pro football players live longer than those of you who don’t bash your brains into broth.” Some of us see through it. Some of us don’t. Plenty of us don’t really want to.