It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth every penny.
Yes, the NFL should buy permanent peace with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. They should do it in order to end once and for all the debate about whether Kaepernick should have a job. They should do it in order to block a potential conclusion that the league colluded to keep Kaepernick unemployed. They should do it in order to avoid a My Cousin Vinny/Seinfeld finale-style trial, that will feature a parade of billionaires and multimillionaires who inevitably will contradict each other and themselves as they occupy the rare position of having to submit to authority other than their own.
They should do it in order to ensure that none of the testimony, text messages, emails, or other materials created by the litigation will ever see the light of day.
All of that can be done, if the NFL is willing to write a check big enough to get Kaepernick to agree to a deal. It would be not only a settlement of his collusion claim but also a full and final divorce between employer and employee, coupled with a broad and wide-ranging commitment to never talk about the collusion case, to never share any of the evidence obtained during the process with outsiders, and to never disparage the NFL or any of its teams.
That’s a big part of what the league would be paying for: Silence. And to ensure that there would be no violation, the league could divide the compensation package into annual payments from an escrow account, with the ability to block those payments if Kaepernick violates any of the terms of the settlement. If Kaepernick ever blabs, then the payments would stop.
Jason La Canfora of CBS recently reported that efforts to negotiate a settlement broke down, with the league and the NFL Players Association now planning for a full-blown collusion hearing, with two weeks in early 2019 eventually set aside for a real-life drama that unfortunately won’t happen in an open and public setting.
Settlement talks can resume at any time, and it’s often the impending commencement of a trial that will prompt an agreement on the proverbial (or literal) courthouse steps. But if the lawyers are too caught up in their own convictions to ever be objective when it comes to assessing the strengths of the opposition’s case, a middle ground can never be found — and one side will end up being stunned by the final result, if/when the arbitrator decides that the opponent’s presentation of the evidence and its application to the appropriate legal statements makes more sense.
For the NFL, the financial and P.R. consequences would be potentially too significant to justify the risk. At a time when the anthem controversy has almost entirely subsided (surely, some sort of a deal was struck between 345 Park and 1600 Pennsylvania to get a certain someone to quit tweeting about the issue), why pull the topic back to the front burner and turn up the heat? Even if the NFL wins, there will be dribs and drabs of documents and testimony that eventually land in the media, and the NFL will be fighting the battle to not look bad for weeks if not months to come.
The NFL often receives criticism for not being proactive. This case presents an ideal opportunity to identify a problem, creatively predict how it could mushroom into a much bigger mess, and come up with a way to keep it all from blowing up in the league’s face.