Seldom does the sports news of the day truly shocks me. Sports are a weird intersection of culture, tradition, money, and fame - a mix that lends for some very eye-popping headlines. But when I saw Colin Kaepernick was going to be working out for NFL teams over the weekend, my jaw hit the floor.
I didn’t think Kaepernick would play another down in the NFL before Adam Schefter’s tweet. After Saturday, I’m convinced now he never will.
I asked a former NFL head coach why Kaepernick wasn’t on a roster a few weeks into the 2017 season and he intimated what I thought he would. The “distractions” of answering questions related to Kaepernick’s protest would be too much for a locker room to withstand. He was certainly deserving of an opportunity and those who were realistic knew his talent level alone should have kept him employed.
Not long ago “a distraction” was generally a label given to a player who had hit a woman, drives drunk, or otherwise acted as a scourge to society. Whether released, re-signed or disciplined internally, an organization would typically suggest that said player could be rehabilitated by being a part of their program. I’ve never been on an NFL team, but I imagine the primary goal of most people in the building is winning football games, not rehabilitating young men.
In Kaepernick’s case, there was no flaw to “rehabilitate”. He broke no laws and caused no harm. His reasoning for protesting was well-documented for those who took the time to read. His actions brought deeply important conversations for this country’s racial progression to an audience that may not have been aware they were occurring or had the privilege to opt-out.
So just as I scoff at the idea that simply playing professional football will turn bad men into good men, I raised my eyebrow at this peculiar NFL-sanctioned workout supposed to be held on this past Saturday in Atlanta. The timing, location and organization by the league made no sense. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk came to a logical conclusion: This was the league’s attempt to avoid another lawsuit.
I had an alternative conspiracy theory: What if a team was interested in Kaepernick, but not the media attention that invariably would follow? This combine-style workout would give that club a great opening line at the press conference. Something like: “We all saw what he did on Saturday. It’s clear he can throw the football. We want to see how he’ll work in our system.”
All hope of that flew out of the window when a waiver issue caused Kaepernick’s camp to call an audible on what felt like the NFL’s all-out blitz to sabotage his workout. Kaepernick was right to distrust the workout’s validity based on all the strange specifications. There was no smokescreen. This was a scam.
By changing the location, working out on his own terms with his own receivers and his own camera crew, he ensured a fair representation of his skills got out. If a team was interested, it saw all it needed to see whether representatives attended or not thanks to the power of social media. If a team wasn’t interested, it missed the workout of a top-40 quarterback in the world.
Kaepernick showed on Saturday what many already believe: he’s more than capable to play in this league. He could walk into Chicago or Miami and compete for the starting job right away. He’d be an unquestioned backup in Kansas City or Green Bay. I’ll put it like this: I don’t think there’s anything Tyrod Taylor can do that Kaepernick can’t, and Taylor always has a job in this league.
People will say Kaepernick moving the workout and calling out the league afterwards shows that being in the NFL isn’t his number one priority. Duh! Kaepernick showed he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs in 2017 and nothing has changed from then to now.
We all can agree that Kaepernick has been wronged by the NFL in some capacity - his settlement proves as much. I’d ask the “If he wants to play, why not do the workout?” crowd two questions: One, why should Kaepernick trust the league to do right by him now? And two, isn’t it in the league’s best interest to show transparency when dealing with a quarterback accusing it of blackballing?
People will ask if the workout was good enough to warrant being signed. Of course, it was, especially for someone with Kaepernick’s resume. But it showed us everything we already know and most already know the mere fact that Kaepernick can play hasn’t been the reason he’s been unemployed. This could have been the best workout of all time, and I don't think it would have done anything but shut up the "Kap can't play" haters. Remember, his unemployment was about “distractions", not talent.
Now there’s no question: Kaepernick sure looks like an NFL quarterback in shorts. We all saw that, and it’s a damn shame.
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