Regardless of whether multiple teams regarded Colin Kaepernick as a starting quarterback in 2017 and 2018 (they did), Kaepernick’s collusion case holds no water absent proof of coordination among the NFL’s teams to keep him unemployed.
And while the smoking gun has yet to be obtained (or, if obtained, yet to be leaked), there’s at least the faint sound of an arrow whizzing toward a target.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that the NFL commissioned a public-opinion poll in 2017 that sought input on, among other things, whether Kaepernick should be signed by a team.
The poll was conducted, per Robinson, by the outside consulting firm co-founded by Joe Lockhart, who at the time was serving as the NFL’s executive V.P. of communications. The data was sent to Commissioner Roger Goodell and other high-ranking executives.
The real question is whether the data also was sent to teams, and whether that data contributed to Kaepernick’s ongoing unemployment. Common sense suggests that the league wouldn’t simply be gathering information to satisfy a sense of curiosity confined to 345 Park Avenue.
If the information was indeed shared, this is precisely the kind of coordination that could become proof of collusion. It’s one thing for a team to conduct fan polling on signing a player. It’s quite another for the league to do it, because this implies that the league is using its position of influence to ensure uniformity and consistency among the clubs (i.e., collusion) when it comes to matters of player employment.