Opinion: Kaepernick ousted from NFL for exercising free speech

By Francis Carlota

I have a question. First, I’ll give stats of a former NFL quarterback. Then you tell me if you think he’s good enough to be a current NFL quarterback. Keep in mind he is just 31 years old, only two seasons removed from playing professional football, has no criminal history of domestic violence or rape, no injury issues, and no substance abuse problems.

Stat 1: This player had a passer rating of 90.7 for the 2016-2017 season. This ranked 17th out of 47 quarterbacks who started an NFL game, higher than Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton.

Stat 2: Of all the former quarterbacks ever to throw the ball over 500 times, this player has the lowest interception percentage of all time, making him the most interception averse quarterback of all time. Only one other player, Aaron Rodgers, has more attempts and a lower interception percentage.

Now you tell me. Is this player good enough to be a current NFL quarterback at any level? Forget being a starter. But is he at least good enough to be a second or third-string quarterback? Yes. But shockingly, this player is no longer a quarterback in the NFL. Why?

The player I’m talking about is Colin Kaepernick. Before I get into the non-athletic reasons why he is not an NFL quarterback, I needed to debunk the myth of him not being good enough to merely play in the NFL. The stats I gave alone are enough to prove otherwise, yet there are even more stats to prove my point. To get a full breakdown, watch Let’s Talk About Colin Kaepernick by Jon Bois and SB Nation on YouTube.

By Football Schedule via Flickr

For those unfamiliar with Colin Kaepernick, he’s a former NFL quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He played from 2011-2017 and led them to an NFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance in 2012. Kaepernick burst onto the scene with his rare dual-threat ability, befuddled opposing defenses, and was one of the NFL’s rising stars. Although his 49ers made the NFC Championship game the following year, the following seasons were more disappointing, and Kaepernick’s production declined. But as Peter Panacy wrote in his article San Francisco 49ers: The Sad Downfall of a Proud Franchise, this was not and could not be all on Kaepernick. A head coaching change in 2014, one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and an incompetent front office are mainly to blame. Then the event starting all of this happened.

Before a preseason game on August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the National Anthem. He did this as a statement to protest injustices against African-Americans, particularly police brutality. He told NFL Media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

A media firestorm ensued. Everybody had an opinion, making it one of the most polarizing events of 2016, the same year as the Presidential election. Kaepernick continued to start, and while the team finished 2-14, this was mostly due to statistically the worst defense in the NFL, according to espn.com.

In March of 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract in hopes of switching to a new team, but no team contacted him. As mentioned before, this is the same player who had a better season than Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, and other “big name” quarterbacks. Yet he couldn’t even get a tryout, while players of much less caliber were given opportunities to start. You may not know this, but I’m from Memphis, TN. Ironically the Tennessee Titans was the last team he contacted for a workout. Their starting quarterback suffered a bad hamstring injury. But they snubbed Kaepernick in favor of the prolific Brandon Weeden (*narrator voice* he isn’t prolific).

After this decision, on October 15, 2017, Colin Kaepernick and his attorney Mark Geragos filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league. Mr. Geragos published a statement saying, “If the N.F.L. … is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest … should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government.” To prove collusion within the NFL, Kaepernick and his lawyers needed to show more than lesser players being given opportunities over Kaepernick. Emails, notes, messages, etc. between owners or other members of front offices were needed.

The NFL wanted to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence, but the opposite happened. On August 30, 2018, Stephen B. Burbank, an arbitrator selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, said enough evidence was shown to move the case to a full hearing. This ruling came after months of depositions and document searches in which lawyers could question league officials, owners, and others in a trial-like format.

This decision was the beginning of the end for the NFL. On February 15, 2019, the NFL reached a settlement with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s teammate who also filed a grievance against the NFL on May 2, 2018. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and the parties agreed to a non-disclosure agreement, meaning neither parties could discuss any aspects of the settlement. But this is clearly a win for Kaepernick, as the settlement suggests that the NFL colluded to keep him out of the league, even though he is definitely more than capable of playing.

What does this mean for Colin Kaepernick? Will a team in need of a backup or starting quarterback sign him? I have no idea. As of now, Kaepernick remains unsigned, and there is a high chance he will never play again in the NFL regardless of the settlement. But what it does mean is the NFL is messed up. This league is ran by owners and general managers who won’t sign a player because he protested the killing of unarmed African-Americans by the police and the constant oppression of people of color since this country’s founding. But these same owners and general managers will sign and retain players with a history of domestic violence against women and assault. The message the league and its owners are sending is clear: If we disagree with how you protest an injustice or with the cause you’re supporting, you can’t play in our league regardless of how good you are. But if you have a history of domestic violence against women and assault, and if you’re good enough, welcome.

But wait, I have one more question. Does this seem right to you?

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