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.

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. The primary causes were an incompetent front office that drafted poorly and dismissed their most successful head coach in 12 seasons and the worse defense in the NFL for the 2016 season. Then the “event.”

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 making it one of the most polarizing events of 2016. Everyone had an opinion, including Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who spoke out against Kaepernick and other players multiple times. President Trump said this to Fox News host Sean Hannity in 2017, “the NFL should have suspended him (Kaepernick) for one game, and he would have never done it again … you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem.” More famously, in the same year during a campaign rally in Alabama he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”

While Trump has continued to attack Kaepernick during his Presidential term, many celebrities and athletes have shown their support for the former NFL quarterback. But they are not alone. In a piece titled An Open Letter of Support for Colin Kaepernick From American Military Veterans, 35 veterans signed on to this letter countering the opinion that Kaepernick disrespected America, veterans, and the flag: “Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech.”

Amid the controversy, Kaepernick continued to start for the 49ers. While the team finished 2-14, this was mainly due to the horrible defense mentioned earlier that gave up 406.4 yards per game, the only defense in the NFL to give up over 400 yards per game.

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 because 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 conspiring 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 conspiracy within the NFL, Kaepernick and his lawyers needed to show more than lesser players being given opportunities over Kaepernick. Emails, notes, messages, et cetera between owners or other members of front offices conspiring to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL need to be shown.

The NFL sought 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 have a full hearing. This ruling came after months of depositions and document searches in which lawyers questioned league officials, owners, and others in a trial-like format.

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. The parties agreed to a non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”), meaning neither parties could discuss any aspects of the settlement. Despite the NDA, this settlement proves the strength of Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid’s case and the weakness of the NFL’s defense.

With this in mind, 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 he may never play again in the NFL regardless of the settlement. But this settlement exposes one of the many problems with the NFL. This league is run 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 continue to sign and retain players with a history of domestic violence against women and assault, e.g. Kareem Hunt, Greg Hardy, Tyreke Hill, and many others. 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, we’ll ignore that and welcome you.

There is only one question that matters: Does this seem right to you?

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