The National Football League is polarising. Not always for the right reasons, but that’s the least of their concerns it seems. An organisation that not only facilitates, but promotes domestic abusers will naturally raise eyebrows. That’s damning enough, but the major flaw of Roger Goodell’s playground rests not with its bizarre issuing of second chances. It’s the silent condemnation of displays of support for sufferers of social injustice that makes them detestable.
This story begins back in February of 2013: Cam Newton-levels of praise are being heaped on 25-year-old Colin Kaepernick. Taken 36th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft out of a small-fry Nevada outfit, it was widely accepted he would be a ‘project’.
But less than two years later, CK7 was in a Super Bowl. A lot of emphasis is placed on the clutch gene. A lot. Whether he won that game or not, at 25, Kaepernick threw for 302 yards on the biggest stage for a passer rating of 91.7 – notching a score in the process.
The following season, he took another step forward. In the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Kaepernick totalled 335 yards of offense against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers. With just over five minutes on the clock, he drove them into Packers territory to get Phil Dawson within field goal range. Dawson put it between the uprights and they progressed into the NFC Championship game again. He overcame a talented outfit in the Carolina Panthers before just failing to find Michael Crabtree in the corner of the end zone against Seattle in the NFC Conference game.
Whether or not the offensive playbook was set up to suit him, teams would kill for that kind of production. Ninety per cent of head coaches would gladly rearrange their offense in order to get that kind of efficiency from a quarterback. Jim Harbaugh continues to laud him for his production and is adamant he’s still a very good player.
Art Briles can get another job in football but Colin Kaepernick can't…sad times
— Damien Moore (@DamienCMoore) August 28, 2017
A notable drop-off in production occurred in 2015. There were mitigating factors, though. Coach Harbaugh, the man who brought Kaepernick into the NFL and strategized to suit his strengths, left for Michigan. Kaepernick lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert. This is not malpractice – it’s commonplace.
Jim Tomsula – an abject failure – replaced him. The 49ers lost offensive coordinator Greg Roman to Buffalo. They lost potential Hall of Famer Frank Gore. Star wideout Michael Crabtree departed. They lost the meat of their offensive line too, as Mike Iupati left for the Arizona Cardinals.
Upheaval distracts quarterbacks, especially one so ingrained in an offensive system. When you take away pieces, you should expect a drop-off. The Niners went 5-11. They weren’t a good team. That’s not all on Kaepernick: he lost his place before the Atlanta game, eight weeks in. Tomsula’s men won three games under Blaine Gabbert – one by a point and two in overtime. They failed to score twenty points in any of their defeats.
He started eleven games in 2016. With one of the worst teams the Niners have ever had, he still only committed four turnovers.
His quarterback rating was 90.7. He was starter quality, and probably still is. But, truth be told – he’s not being snubbed for his on-field performances. If he was, that means that there are a lot of under-qualified football coaches in the NFL.
Ability-wise, he’s so far ahead of most backup quarterbacks – and some starters – that on-field talent should practically be removed as a reason for his unemployment.
His protest in a 2016 pre-season game has tarred his reputation among the elite in the sport. Standing up for social injustice has seen him blackballed. Joe Mixon was caught on tape knocking out a young woman named Amelia Molitor. He was issued with a suspended sentence.
He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of this year’s NFL draft.
It’s not just Mixon – there are countless instances. Tyreek Hill is another prominent superstar with a dark history. He now lights up NFL advertising with his electric speed. He plead guilty to domestic assault and battery in 2014.
Kaepernick is not guilty of anything other than having beliefs. He’s not even broken a rule, let alone committed a crime. His social views – those possessed by anyone with a half a brain and a moral conscience – are his downfall.
He brings baggage with his signing – of course. Increased media attention and overbearing Kaepernick narratives may disturb the mood in a team’s camp. It’s at times like this that we must remember we’re dealing with professional athletes. It’s also worth remembering that they’re only ever seen as that. Except in Kaepernick’s case, of course.
It’s an environment where human beings that derive from silence in times that require spokespeople are punished. Where subhuman behaviour is rewarded once they can outrun the negative press that follows them. The NFL is rotten to the core, and Kaepernick’s exclusion is the most toxic example of that. Even if they’ll never admit the reasons for it.