Jim Souhan’s not alone in picking out this choice as a post-George Floyd savior for the NFL, but he’s perhaps more specific than most. The league has struggled over the past few years with activism by players over police brutality and racism, although they have largely settled with everyone — or almost everyone. The most visible activist is no longer on the field in the NFL.

If the Minnesota Vikings want to signal solidarity with their community, Souhan writes, they know what they have to do. Bring back Colin Kaepernick!

We’ll get to Souhan’s point in a moment, but first let’s look at a similar call from Joe Lockhart. The former Clinton administration spokesman also worked as an NFL executive, and now says he and the league were wrong not to have worked harder to facilitate Kaepernick’s return:

The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, and other league executives tried to persuade the teams to change their minds. The league sent owners and players around the country to try to lead a dialogue on race relations and to move, as the sociologist and human rights activist Harry Edwards said, “from protest to progress.” Though Kaepernick didn’t get his job back, I thought we had all done a righteous job, considering.

I was wrong. I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were. …

The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice. As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.

It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence. But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made.

Actually, it appeared that the NFL fumbled its attempts to get Kaepernick back on a roster, and looked far from “righteous” in those efforts. Either the league was completely incompetent at that mission, or (more likely) was just a lot more interested in protecting themselves from Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit. In the end, no one signed Kaepernick after stunts on both sides, including Kaepernick’s pointed reference to slavery in his workout uniform.

Nevertheless, Souhan writes that Lockhart has the right idea:

Lockhart concludes the Vikings could do the world and the league a lot of good by signing Kaepernick.

He’s right. Signing Kaepernick would signal that the Vikings care about social justice, and that the NFL acknowledges its wrongful blackballing of a talented player.

Don’t football teams usually sign players because they have a chance to contribute on the field? If the real goal is public relations, make Kaepernick a (well paid) VP or some other slot that would allow him a high-visibility connection to the media. Actually, the league itself could do that much, if they thought it would help.

Souhan thinks Kaepernick could still contribute on the field, though:

Signing Kaepernick would also make football sense.

He is 32, healthy and remains in remarkable shape. The Vikings’ current backup is Sean Mannion, the kind of extra quarterback that nobody wants to see take the field.

Kaepernick would give the Vikings a chance to win if Kirk Cousins gets injured, and he’s young enough that he might become the franchise’s quarterback of the future.

Well … yes on the former, and doubtful on the latter. Kaepernick’s skills were already eroding a bit before he became an activist, but he was at least still able to move and throw the ball. Several teams didn’t have that much talent on their benches last season (including my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, whose backup QBs were *ahem* entertaining to watch at times). Mannion’s been in the league since 2015 and has thrown a grand total of 74 regular-season passes in his career, 21 of which came last year in Minnesota, where he had a passer rating of 35.1 (lifetime 57.5). Maybe Mannion’s a late bloomer, but he’s not shown any hint of being competitive in this league.

Kaepernick may not be a starter any longer, but he could still competently run an offense while he was playing. His lowest passer rating for a season was 78.5 in 2015, and he got a 90.7 in 2016 while playing 12 games for an awful San Francisco team, throwing 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. A four-year hiatus might have put him well behind the 8-ball for restarting his career, but at least he’d be healthy and fresh. He’s no one’s QB of the future, but his skills would still be superior to many backups still occupying roster slots in the league.

On the other hand, the Vikings and the league would have to deal with the reality of having Kaepernick on hand rather than just the concept of it. Paul Mirengoff at Power Line spells out that reality, which explains why owners were reluctant before now to give Kaepernick his shot:

Kaepernick considers America to be an imperialist nation bent on attacking “brown and black bodies.” After our military took out the Iranian terrorist Gen. Suleiman, Kaepernick said, “America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non white world.” This is Marxist-Leninist babble with some Frantz Fanon thrown in.

In response to the rioting in Minneapolis, Kaepernick tweeted:

When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction. The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance. We have the right to fight back!

To drive home the point, Kaepernick retweeted a picture of the Minneapolis Third Precinct police house on fire.

Good luck with that, Mr. Souhan. Let’s also ask what would happen if Kaepernick got signed but couldn’t outperform other QB candidates. It’s been four years, after all, and there’s no guarantee that Kaepernick’s skills haven’t entirely eroded. What happens if Kaepernick gets cut? Would any owner feel free to cut him, under the circumstances? What happens if he doesn’t actually get any playing time if Cousins proves durable next season? It’s a huge headache for any owner that opts to sign Kaepernick, and the recent unrest only escalates those issues.

Still, I agree with Paul on this point and have written so more than once — Kaepernick’s politics shouldn’t get him blackballed. Conservatives should actually have some sensitivity to that issue, having complained loudly and longly about having doors closed in their faces as well. If Kaepernick can still play, the NFL should let him compete. Let’s not reserve a slot for him just because, but let’s not pretend we don’t see the relative quality of backups on rosters right now, and further pretend that Kaepernick’s not playing because he can’t contribute on the field.