Warriors on Issues: Star spangled protest update
Fall is in the air and with it comes the kickoff to a new season of America’s favorite Sunday pastime: professional football. And as the Belichick-Brady Patriots enter the season with 5:2 odds at another Superbowl title, there’s one player whose odds of playing a single snap this season are exceptionally low. While Colin Kaepernick statistically ranks above 18 backup QBs, he has yet to find a job after opting out of his contract last year.
After kneeling several times during the national anthem last season in protest of violence against black Americans, the former 49er has suddenly become incompatible with 32 NFL offenses. At least, that’s according to numerous team executives interviewed by Sports Illustrated who all seem to agree, “the protests, all that, it wasn’t even a factor for us. He needs to be in a specific system … it’s a system thing.”
Maybe merit is the determining factor for some of these teams, but after the Rams signed Dan Orlovsky, the former Lion who ran out of his own endzone in his first career start, it’s hard to argue that Kaepernick’s unemployment has nothing to do with politics.
Still, you can’t blame franchises for wanting to avoid Kaepernick’s polarizing conduct. After the national anthem protests took the top slot in a JD Power poll for reasons why fans stopped watching football in 2016, it’s no wonder owners and GMs want to focus on football and football alone this year. When the Ravens considered signing Kaepernick in July, owner Steve Bisciotti actually asked team fans to “pray for us.” Signing a guy who over 60% of football fans disagree with is not good for ticket sales or gameday ratings. But does that put teams in the right?
Kaepernick remains far from alone in his stand during the Star Spangled Banner, or lack thereof. Dozens of players from Cleveland to Seattle have stated they will protest the anthem indefinitely in 2017. These protests are not old news, nor are they going away anytime soon. But where does that leave the “blackballed” QB who started it all?
Kaepernick’s lack of a contract probably isn’t intended as a political statement by 32 team owners against the desecration of patriotic symbols. When it comes down to it, football is a business and Kaepernick’s name on your roster is bad for business. However, bypassing Kaepernick still makes over half the league’s franchises guilty of bringing politics into a decision that should be all about football.
A year ago, Kaepernick undeniably had the right and the reasons to kneel, though you could still disagree with the action of kneeling for our anthem. In the same way, NFL teams no doubt have the right to sign any player they choose, and have reasons to keep a politically polarizing player off their rosters. Football executives are in the entertainment industry, so of course they’ll steer clear of a player disagreeable to over half of their fans. But that business-driven rationale doesn’t ethically justify Kaepernick’s ongoing free agency, which is anything but politically neutral.
Give the fans what they really want: wins. And if Colin Kaepernick passes and runs better than most backups in the league, why not sign the guy who kneeled for the Star Spangled Banner?
Warriors on the Issues is a monthly column contributed by Wilton High School’s Model Congress. Jonah Hirsch is the club’s president.