Anthony Mahon / Essay / October 2017

Take a Knee

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Colin Kaepernick has become one of the most polarizing figures in recent memory since he made the decision to protest racial injustice during the National Anthem one year ago.

Since opting out of his contract in March—after multiple reports came out that he was going to be released, anyway—Kaep remains unsigned. Some have claimed that he isn’t good enough to play, despite being statistically superior to many quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters. Others have called for Kaepernick to be banned from the league entirely.

The long-heated debate reached its boiling point last month after President Donald Trump commented on the subject at a political rally. His criticism of national anthem protests and the NFL’s player safety rules—days after Aaron Hernandez was discovered to have stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he committed suicide—sparked passionate responses around the league.

Critics showed off for social media by torching their NFL merchandise and vowing to never watch football again. Even with Kaep’s social work, discussions with ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer, and—albeit momentarily—increased external participation in protests, his message is still lost in the tired “disrespecting the military” argument.

The owners that were quick to reply to Trump’s remarks were nowhere to be found when the time came for Kaepernick to fill a roster spot. With injuries to quarterbacks such as Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, and, most recently, Aaron Rodgers, it is baffling that he isn’t on an NFL roster. After the Tennessee Titans passed on Colin Kaepernick in favor of signing Brandon Weeden, his legal team confirmed that he filed a grievance against NFL owners for collusion.

Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, “collusion” means an agreement between two or more teams to keep a player out of the league. This means if a team decided independently not to sign Kaep, they cannot be challenged. However, if it can be proven that multiple teams had an expressed or implied agreement with each other to blackball Kaepernick, the ex-49er would be due for a sizable payout for lost wages. Proven influence from other powerful sources—like the President of the United States—would also fall under collusion.

The bottom line is that Colin Kaepernick is good enough to be an NFL quarterback. Place his stats against the majority of backup QBs or a handful of starters, and the numbers are in his favor.

The people calling him a distraction have been considerably less vocal about the continued employment of players with criminal history. Those crying for politics and sports to be kept separated fail to note that football players weren’t required to be on the field for anthem until 2009. This only changed after the Department of Defense gave the NFL millions as part of a marketing strategy for the players to look more patriotic. The “long standing tradition” isn’t a good natured gesture. It’s paid patriotism.

The disgusting responses to the bevy of protests only prove Kaep’s point:

Local fire chief out after using racial slur to refer to Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin

NFL Lions’ Akeem Spence Says His Protest Cost His Father a Job

Titans’ Delanie Walker: family has received death threats

The community work that many athletes have done go unrecognized by the “do-it-on-your-own-times” of the world. They’d rather grossly suggest that Kaep and others as rich athletes are “crybabies” for using their platform to raise awareness for major issues.

By filing this grievance, it severely diminishes the likelihood that Colin Kaepernick will ever play another down in the National Football League. Nonetheless, with a win in this case, it will be a small step towards changing the culture around freedom of speech in sports.

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