As the NFL finalizes a five-year contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell, his handling of Colin Kaepernick’s protest is proof that the league would be better off giving his salary to Tom Brady. Or Kaepernick.
Fearing that Kaepernick signing with an NFL team would create a momentary distraction or cause a few sponsors to boycott, the NFL has instituted a winking banishment of a worthwhile quarterback, creating a daily distraction and causing a boycott.
The NFL isn’t just wrong about Kaepernick. It’s wrong about the way in which it is wrong.
Even if you are one of those Americans who wrongly decided that Kaepernick’s protest was an insult to our military, you have to now admit that Goodell has transformed Kaepernick from a talented quarterback with something to say into a strong-armed martyr.
This is mismanagement at its worst, and Goodell will be rewarded with more guaranteed money than most of the stars who make the league what it is.
Instead of encouraging a team to sign a player who would strengthen most NFL rosters, Goodell has allowed Kaepernick to sit and the impasse to fester, leading to these recent developments:
• #BlackoutNFL is now, as the kids say, a thing. Black men from different professions and areas of the country have vowed to stop watching or attending NFL games and to devote weekend hours to good works. Watch their video on YouTube. It is eloquent and powerful and explodes the falsehoods attached to Kaepernick’s protest.
• Sideline protests have grown. On Monday night, a dozen or more Cleveland Browns players knelt during the anthem.
• White players have begun visibly supporting black players staging protests. The Browns’ Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel during an anthem. Chris Long, Justin Britt and Derek Carr had previously placed their hands on protesting black teammates.
• The number of unqualified NFL quarterbacks who are employed instead of Kaepernick has become even more obvious. Kaepernick could start for many teams and be a backup for almost any. He beat out Alex Smith and came within one pass of winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 2013, and he threw 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions for a bad team last year.
He has also spent the past calendar year doing good works and donating money to charity.
• The original meme that accused Kaepernick of insulting American troops has faded as the truth of the protest has become unavoidable. Kaepernick was using his constitutional right of peaceful protest to bring attention to the stunning number of unarmed black men being shot by police officers.
One of the men featured in the #BlackoutNFL video is Pastor Debleaire Snell of the First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Ala.
His words are undeniable, unless you live in denial.
“In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick engaged in a silent nonviolent protest,” Snell said. “… He did this to raise awareness to the number of brown and black individuals that had been beaten or killed at the hands of law enforcement across this country.
“Since the end of last season, as a result of this protest, Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find employment in the NFL. I find that strange, seeing that the NFL has employed individuals that have been convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, along with driving while under the influence.”
Snell notes that the NFL fears a backlash by fans or sponsors but has ignored a potential backlash from black fans and players.
Kaepernick makes a lot of fans and owners uncomfortable. That’s what peaceful protests are designed to do. Those in power do not change until forced to change.
Had an NFL team, say the Baltimore Ravens, signed Kaepernick, they would have held one or two uncomfortable news conferences and then moved ahead with the single-mindedness and regimented interview schedule on which the NFL prides itself.
Instead, Goodell and his minions have made Kaepernick’s story large, enduring and a threat to the popularity of a league strangely loyal to the commissioner who excels at making his bosses look bad, if not bigoted.