As the NFL tries to persuade all players to choose to stand for the national anthem, one of the players on the front lines of the movement has identified one key step that needs to happen before the situation can be resolved: Colin Kaepernick needs to be on a team.
“I got to talk to the players in the owners meeting,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told reporters on Wednesday. “I think the first step to even being able to even have a conversation is to make sure that Colin Kaepernick gets an opportunity to play in the NFL. I think before we even negotiate anything about whether we sit or whether we stand, should be a negotiation about opening up the doors for Colin Kaepernick and give him an opportunity again, because I feel like through everything that’s been lost, I think all of us are having opportunities to be able to speak to our employers, but to think about the guy who started everything not to be able to have a voice at this moment, it just doesn’t seem very right to me.”
Former NFL offensive lineman Willie Colon reiterated on Wednesday’s PFT Live that, when Kaepernick’s came up at the meeting between owners and players, a bathroom break quickly ensued.
“I think it was brought up,” Bennett said regarding Kaepernick’s status, “but I think they didn’t really get deep into it, but I think it’s something like I said that there needs to be a deep conversation, and we need to find a solution about that. Whether they say, ‘This is what’s happening, he’s not going to play again,’ or whether they open their doors up, but I think there needs to be some kind of resolution to what’s going on.”
Bennett later reiterated that the anthem issue can’t be solved until Kaepernick has a job.
“I don’t think we can work alongside of them until we address that issue,” Bennett said, adding that he believes all players agree on that. “I think the issue of Kaepernick is the start to a conversation if they want us to be open to what they want, the dialogue, then that’s something that needs to be on the table right there.”
Complicating the situation is the collusion grievance Kaepernick recently filed against the NFL. Some owners will feel inclined to double down in their resistance to Kaepernick, so as not to strengthen his case by suddenly showing interest after snubbing him for so long.
Then there’s the possibility that Kaepernick could be given a job subject to dropping his grievance. But the mere offer of such terms would be evidence of collusion, since the league office should not be working directly with any team to ensure the employment of any player.
Put simply, there’s no easy way to get Kaepernick employed without essentially admitting to collusion or committing fresh collusion. Absent a season-ending injury to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (which likely would prompt the Seahawks to quickly sign Kaepernick), it would be a surprise if anything changes, at least until the offseason — or until Kaepernick wins his collusion case.