NAACP to NFL: Quit blackballing Kaepernick

Can the NAACP succeed where Colin Kaepernick and his agent have not? The lack of a job offer for the 29-year-old Super Bowl quarterback has the civil rights organization suspicious that NFL owners have blackballed him for his activism. They have sent a letter to commissioner Roger Goodell demanding a meeting to discuss the situation, while Goodell insists that owners are making football-related decisions rather than political statements:


The NAACP wants a meeting with the NFL commissioner to discuss the fate of Colin Kaepernick. …

The NAACP says in a letter to the football commissioner, Roger Goodell, that it’s apparently “no sheer coincidence” that Kaepernick hasn’t been picked up.

Derrick Johnson — the NAACP’s interim president and CEO — says “no player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech.”

ESPN’s Stephen Smith says that the conversation needs to be had. Are all 64 NFL quarterbacks holding down the top two slots on all 32 teams better than Kaepernick? If not, then his exclusion raises questions that need to be answered:

Smith raises a good question. Shouldn’t on-field performance matter more? As one person puts it in the CBS News clip below, the NFL and its fans routinely make that argument when it comes to people who have been accused of crimes such as accessory to murder, rape, domestic abuse, and so on — although the recent trend has been to sideline those players as well. Ray Rice has been trying to get back into the NFL since his expulsion three years ago, but the 30-year-old running hasn’t played a down in the league since 2013.

However, Kaepernick didn’t break any laws, or even any league rules. He just thumbed his nose at fans before games. So why can’t he get the same access to the field as other transgressors? Did his performance sink that low in 2016? According to ESPN’s rankings based on quarterback ratings, Kaepernick finished the season ranked 23rd out of 30 starters, ahead of some who are angling for starting jobs now, such as Blake Bortles and Case Keenum.


Mike Sando asks NFL coaches and scouts to ranks QBs in the league each year. The 2017 results put Kaepernick almost exactly where he did in the 2016 survey:

Kaepernick scored almost exactly the same this summer as he did one year ago, before his national anthem protests and statements about police created sufficient controversy for Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to ask fans for their prayers as the team debated whether to sign the QB.

The 2017 QB Tiers survey asked 50 coaches and evaluators to place 36 quarterbacks in one of five performance tiers, with Tier 1 signifying the best and Tier 5 the worst. Kaepernick came in 29th with a 3.88 average, placing him ahead of six potential starters. The 2016 QB Tiers poll, conducted before Kaepernick’s first anthem protest, had him 28th, with a 3.83 average.

So it’s not an on-field issue. The Jacksonville Jaguars, for instance, have a QB controversy between Bortles and Chad Henne for their starting position, neither of whom have been to a Super Bowl. Henne’s two years older than Kaepernick and hasn’t played on a regular basis since 2013, and yet is supposed to have the inside track on the starter position. Bortles has been their main QB since first coming into the league in 2014 but clearly isn’t playing well enough to sew up the starter position. Their potential third QB, Brandon Allen, hasn’t ever taken a snap in the league since getting drafted before the 2016 season in the sixth round.


With that as just one example, it’s tough to make the argument that Kaepernick can’t compete on his athletic ability and proven track record — on the field, anyway. And yet, the only offer that Kaepernick supposedly got was for the league minimum, and the only evidence for that was an unnamed source to the Daily Caller. The issue is pretty clearly the level of discomfort that Kaepernick brings to the league.

On the other hand, Kaepernick bears more than a little responsibility for that, too. His girlfriend Nessa Diab apparently scotched one opportunity with the Baltimore Ravens by insinuating Ray Lewis was a sellout and that team owner Steve Bisciotti was akin to a slave owner. No one needs that kind of poisonous atmosphere, especially not in a team sport like football, and most especially out in public.

That has to have a significantly chilling effect on hiring decisions, too. Hall of Fame QB Boomer Esiason, now a CBS sports analyst, agrees that it’s not an on-the-field issue — but argues that he wouldn’t sign Kaepernick either:

To boil it down, both sides have a point. Kaepernick could probably start if it weren’t for his political protests last year, and he still might have been able to catch on with a team had it not been for his own side’s antics over the spring and summer. The NAACP should be talking to both sides.


In the end, though, pragmatism will win out. Even if Kaepernick doesn’t get signed before the start of the season, an injury or two among the ranks of QBs will get him a contract above the league minimum, and probably some serious playing time in the fall. Expect to see Kaepernick on the sidelines by October 1st, and probably standing.

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