When it was announced that the Dolphins Ryan Tannehill was injured and the team was looking to sign an experienced QB, naturally the “Is Colin Kaepernick being blackballed” watch began again. And when the Dolphins decided to bring in Jay Cutler, (Jay Cutler!) instead of Colin, the screaming began again.
Except, here’s the thing about Kaepernick. He wasn’t so good that it’s clear he should be someone’s starting QB any more than Jay Cutler should be. So as you start looking at these individual decisions, it’s hard to find a clear-cut case of a team choosing the clearly lesser choice. For example, taking the names out of the equation:
- Your quarterback gets injured as training camp is starting to ramp up and exhibition games are right on the horizon.
- The new guy has limited time to learn the playbook
- There’s a recently retired QB who played under the head coach previously in the same system
Yes, unless that guy was the worst QB ever, that’s the guy you go sign. Not the guy who played in an entirely different system last year. The only reason you sign Kaepernick in that situation is if he represents a truly fantastic talent above and beyond anything Cutler could do. The 49ers record with Kaepernick under center the last few years would not suggest that.
So, beyond that, is he being blackballed? Honestly, to some extent he probably is. Is that OK? Well, that depends on how you feel about whether the NFL is a business or not. (Hint, it is!)
As a business, the league, or any owner, has the right to say “I don’t want this person to work for me, because too many people don’t like him, and my business depends on people liking my team and spending money on tickets and merchandise”. This is no different than what Google just decided about their guy who wrote a memo disagreeing with Google’s diversity stance. If you’re OK with Google firing him because they know the public wouldn’t approve and don’t want to be associated with this guy, then you have to be OK with any owner looking at Kaepernick and saying the same thing. Lets’ face it, whether you agree with what he was protesting or not, a LOT of people did not like the way he protested during the national anthem. People who watch games, buy tickets, and own jerseys.
Of course, you could say the same thing about some other athletes as well. A LOT of people don’t really like Richard Sherman, or Dez Bryant, or any number of NFL players for any number of reasons, yet they still have jobs. This is where it gets tough. Those guys are clearly the best options for their teams. They are stand out players who bring more value on the field than they take away off of it. Kaepernick for the last few years has been the starting QB for a horrible team. His play has been “meh”, and “meh” doesn’t guarantee you a job regardless of what you do off the field.
At the end of the day, there are those who think that the NFL is punishing Kaepernick as a message to black players to sit down and shut up. I don’t think it’s that clear cut. There are plenty of outspoken black players in the league. I think the NFL is using Kaepernick to send the message that if you’re a mediocre player, don’t be an off-field problem, because there are lots of other mediocre players who won’t be a problem for an owner.
The cardinal sin in the cut throat world of professional football isn’t taking a stance politically. It’s taking a stance politically when you aren’t so much better than the next guy. No one is going to take the PR hit, or the infamous “distraction” for a mediocre player.
Seriously, this is the league where guys draft stock falls for being too smart and having intellectual pursuits outside of football. If you want to be politically involved, and protest the national anthem, you had better be awesome.