We make an effort to keep politics out of this blog. But in this case we don’t have much of a choice, do we?
We are going to have to discuss Colin Kaepernick.
This week set it in stone: Kaepernick is officially a signpost in history. When historians write important books about these terrible times of flames, violence and anger, there will be at least a chapter on Kaepernick, his social stand and whether he was ostracized from the NFL.
The symbolism is simply too pure and obvious. Kaepernick was vilified for putting his knee down during the national anthem. That Minneapolis cop put his knee down on George Floyd’s neck and squeezed the life out of him.
(If I could just speak on a personal level, if someone accused me of being “an entitled white guy,” I wouldn’t have much of a defense. I probably am.
And even as recently as five years ago, when one of these police shootings or killings happened, I might have thought “I’ll bet there is more to the story.”
Not any more. The videos of black men shot in the back and choked to death have shaken me. And this one, the cop with his hand casually in his pocket and looking down at Floyd with no more emotion that if he was writing a traffic ticket is shocking, heartbreaking and outrageous.)
So we look for little things we can do, gestures to make matters slightly better. Hoping we can try to right some wrongs.
And Kaepernick is perfect. Former NFL executive (and former White House press secretary) Joe Lockhart, made the case last weekend in a CNN editorial with the headline “Now is the moment to sign Colin Kaepernick.”
He is not the only one writing that, which is understandable. And I’d say, if that is your motive, to make a healing political statement, to reach out to Kaepernick and say “You deserve the right to compete for a job in the NFL,” I am all in.
But if you are doing it with your football team in mind, I’d say you’d better think long and hard. It’s not as simple as saying the former Super Bowl quarterback is better than a lot of the NFL backups now. That’s the problem when you layer politics over sports.
Lockhart reminds us of a few details. First, when Kaepernick started to protest, no one even noticed. He sat on the bench during the anthem and it wasn’t until the second pre-season game that he was spotted. And then, once he was the subject of attention, he took the suggestion of a former Green Beret, who said a respectful kneel down would be better.
Kaepernick may have been the first, but he was soon joined by literally hundreds of players, particularly after President Trump agitated that the team should “get that son of a bitch” off the field. (The 49ers were classy, reaffirming his right to protest and free speech.)
But of all the players who took a knee, only Kaepernick has been singled out. Teammate Eric Reid was unsigned for a while, but he eventually found a team. It’s all Kaepernick, which is kind of an unexpected turn in his career.
Until he began political advocacy, Kaepernick was anything but outspoken. He was a difficult and unpleasant interview subject, who gave one word answers and seemed dismissive of media members. As one insider said, “First we couldn’t get him to talk and now he won’t stop.”
He continues to be a bit of an enigma. He does not give interviews and communicates through Tweets. He held a workout for NFL teams, but it was such a confusing mess it was hard to say anything was accomplished. His people continue to say he is training hard and committed to playing.
And again, if the reason he isn’t playing is because of his political stand, that’s ridiculous. And if you are an NFL team and you want to sign him as an attempt to correct an injustice and say that we should have been paying more attention to Black Lives Matter, I say go right ahead.
But the football part is trickier. Lockhart states the obvious. Kaepernick is being considered as a backup. NFL evaluators don’t see him as a starter. If they did, and they thought he could help them win, they’d sign him in a heartbeat. Just look at the disgraceful way the league forgives and forgets with domestic abusers.
Lots of people are opining about Kaepernick’s current skill level. And the fact is, we don’t know how he would play after three years out of football. His accuracy was questioned even in his best years. His running ability became less of a factor as teams funneled him away from the sidelines and into the middle of the field. We just don’t know how the 2020 Kaepernick will translate.
But we do know this, signing him would be a whirlwind of attention. Say you invite him to pre-season camp for a tryout. There would be a press conference to announce it, another when he arrived, and questions about his progress every day.
But what if you give him a shot and decide there are better options for a backup? Are you blackballing him?
Or what if he is your backup and the starter has a bad game? Why aren’t you playing Kaep? Is it because of his political views?
It is going to be non-stop attention and scrutiny. Which is not what you want from your backup QB.
In a perfect world, Kaepernick would get a tryout and stand or fall on what he did. And we’d trust the people making the evaluations that they were making their calls on facts and stats, not ideology.
The problem is, this isn’t a perfect world. And after last week, it seems less so all the time.
Contact C.W. Nevius at email@example.com. Twitter: @cwnevius