As the NFL blames Colin Kaepernick and as Kaepernick’s camp blames the NFL for Saturday’s unprecedented adjustments to an unprecedented private Pro Day workout for a 32-year-old quarterback who last played on New Year’s Day in 2017, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
So who deserves the most of it?
There’s a way to get a feel for the reasonableness, or not, of each side in this week-long game of chess and chicken. The specific language of the liability waiver proposed to Kaepernick by the league and the specific language of the liability waiver proposed to the league by Kaepernick could go a long way toward shedding light on which side was serious about proceeding with the event, as scheduled, at the Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Although leaks and characterizations have emerged regarding the competing releases, the actual language has yet to be quoted, by anyone.
As the events unfolded on Saturday afternoon, Kaepernick’s representatives said that the “unusual” waiver presented to Kaepernick by the NFL addressed “employment-related issues,” which in their estimation would have extinguished Kaepernick’s potential claims for collusion and/or retaliation since his first collusion case was settled in February. The NFL, leaking via anonymous source to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, contends that “[t]he employment clause in the waiver that the NFL wanted Colin Kaepernick to sign was related to potential worker’s compensation issues if he’d been injured and was not related to any of Kaepernick’s collusion-related claims, in the league’s view.”
So here’s my self-imposed homework assisgnment for the day: To get the actual language from the two waivers, to apply my fading legal skills and abilities to an analysis of the documents, and to determine whether the league or Kaepernick, or both, bear blame for the battle of paperwork that kept Kaepernick from proceeding as planned.
Of course, other issues contributed to the decision, such as the league’s refusal to allow the media to attend the session. But the competing waivers will shed light on whether either or both truly wanted to move forward with the workout at the Falcons’ facility.
Some would say that neither side was truly serious about staging a legitimate workout aimed at generating a legitimate opportunity for Kaepernick to return to the NFL. From the moment the first report surfaced that the league had scheduled a throwing session for the ostracized quarterback, it has felt more like a tug of war than a genuine effort to rectify past ugliness and to advance the mutual best interests of league and player. Kaepernick’s camp understandably was leery, given past events that culminated in a settlement of his collusion grievance. The league, from Kaepernick’s perspective, consistently acted the way it would not if it was truly trying to help Kaepernick but if it was trying to activate a P.R. and/or legal strategy that would have allowed the league to continue to keep Kaepernick out of the league while obtaining absolution for all past Kaepernick-related sins.
While both sides may indeed bear blame, the league, not Kaepernick, opened Pandora’s box on this one. The waiver given to Kaepernick by the league, and the waiver given by the league to Kaepernick, could help show which side bears more of it.