As free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick resumes the waiting game, he could be waiting a while. And while the break he needs could involve a tibia or fibula belonging to a current starter, there’s one potential path to a roster that doesn’t entail injury.
Gary Myers of the New York Daily News believes that a call from Commissioner Roger Goodell could get the job done, presumably if Goodell has something to unofficially dangle in return for getting one of the league’s franchises to give Kaepernick a chance. Myers points to rumors that Goodell persuaded Rams coach Jeff Fisher to use a seventh-round pick on defensive end Michael Sam in 2014. (After the Rams cut Sam, Peter King reported that the league called around to get a team to take Sam onto the practice squad; the Cowboys eventually did.)
Of course, before Goodell could get involved, he’d have to admit there’s a problem. When he addressed the situation last month at the May ownership meeting, he didn’t seem to be concerned that anything was amiss.
“Each team makes individual decisions on how they can improve their team,” Goodell said at the time. “If they see an opportunity to improve their team they do it. They evaluate players. They evaluate systems and coaches. They all make those individual decisions to try and improve their team.”
It’s likely going to take arm twisting from Park Avenue to get Kaepernick a gig because, as Drew Magary of Deadspin aptly notes, the NFL has made up its mind about Kaepernick — regardless of how flimsy or embellished or flat-out false the reasons repeatedly leaked to willing media members may be. And it’s gone beyond members of the media happily passing along untruths without scrutiny. Multiple members of the media are actively involved in making an aggressive football-based case against signing Kaepernick to be a starter or a backup, less than a year after he overcame three offseason surgeries, weight loss arising from those three surgeries, offseason dysfunction arising from his desire for a fresh start, a new system to learn once trade opportunities fell through, and a roster devoid of significant talent to throw for 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions, generate a passer rating higher than 90, and average 6.8 yards per throw and 6.8 yards per run.
“I’m not here to make the statistical argument for Kaepernick, and I’m not here to make the moral argument for him either,” Magary writes. “I’m just here to say that I give up, and that any valid argument made on his behalf is a waste of time when presented to a league that has already decided to wash its hands of him. You may as well be arguing with a f–king wall.”
He’s right, and that’s ultimately the thing that bothers me the most. It’s impossible to have a fair and honest debate about the propriety of the real reasons for shunning Kaepernick when the goalposts are constantly on grocery-cart wheels regarding the various phony ones. Is it right or wrong to ignore a guy due to fears of alienating those fans who don’t like what he did? Is it right or wrong to decline to give a player a platform on which he may express political views that conflict with those of the owner of the team? If no one will ever admit that this is what’s happening, the argument for or against it never fully develops.
Everyone who covers the NFL has (or at least should have) a role, a niche. (I prefer the fancier pronunciation.) One of mine is to try to call out BS when I see or hear it. I did it with the various logical and factual flaws arising from the Saints bounty scandal. I did it with the ridiculous cap penalties imposed on Dallas and Washington for treating the uncapped year as uncapped. I did it with #DeflateGate. I do it whenever the NFL suddenly enforces against one team a rule that otherwise is violated by many of them.
And for those of you who think I have Kaepernick’s initials tattooed on my bicep, I also did it when Kaepernick’s former agents leaked to willing members of the media contract details that were flimsy, embellished, and flat-out false. Kaepernick and his former agents weren’t happy about it. Kaepernick may still be miffed about it, nearly three years later. But the stories about what his contract was worth were BS, and the tales being told now about why he’s not in the NFL are equally BS.
Because there are enough members of the media willing to tolerate and/or to not push back against the BS — and because fans who don’t like Kaepernick either aren’t bothered by it or are willing to gobble it up, despite the deleterious effect on one’s breath — the NFL has no qualms about hunkering down, taking the relatively mild heat (this is an unlit sparkler in comparison to the Ray Rice conflagration), and waiting for people like Myers, Magary, and me to move on to something else. Because eventually we will. Because eventually there’s nothing more than can be said about a man who is unfairly being denied a chance to make a living in his chosen field, for reasons that remain conveniently concealed.