Despite what the media and the other players tell you, Colin Kaepernick is not being blackballed by the NFL owners.
Since his protest last pre-season – where he “took a knee” during the Star Spangled Banner – the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers has been a lightning rod of controversy.
His little demonstration was copied by teams and players around the country. It threw the NFL into the awkward position of being forced to either allowing their players to exercise their First Amendment rights on the field or order them to respect the American Flag.
It has also, many speculate, led to the nosedive in NFL ratings this year.
So whether or not he was a spectacular player (he’s not) or a middling one (he is), one could understand why a team might be reluctant to sign the most distracting thing in the NFL today.
But “blackballed”? No.
The 49ers CEO said he doesn’t think there’s any merit to the claim that the team owners have collectively conspired to keep him from playing in the league. Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the owners alleging collusion to keep him from playing.
“It’s hard for me to get into any details or really share my opinion. But I don’t believe there’s base to that claim that he’s being blackballed,” Jed York said Thursday.
One of Kaepernick’s attorneys, Mark Geragos, issued a statement over Twitter that said, “If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the executive branch of our government. Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.”
— Mark Geragos (@markgeragos) October 16, 2017
USA Today reports that York participated in meetings this week between the league, owners and players in New York to discuss the protests during the national anthem which Kaepernick pioneered. His former teammate Eric Reid, who was the first player to join the protest, was there and indicated progress was made in the discussion between owners and players.
“I think it went well. It was a start. (We) had a lot of good conversation and I think we’re on the path to what Colin and I were looking for when we started protesting,” Reid said. “So the NFL has agreed to commit to a long-term plan and use their platform to continue to raise awareness to the issues that affect our country and to help us feel like we don’t need to protest. So we’re in the right direction.”
The goal of the ongoing discussion is to address the issues in a way that allows players to feel like protesting is no longer a necessity and the issues are getting addressed, York said.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” he said. “How do we make sure that we encourage you to stand, but we’re not requiring you to do anything. You’re allowed to do anything that you want (under) the First Amendment. You can express yourself, but we want you to stand because you want to stand. We’re not going to make you stand, and we want to make our country and communities a better place, not because you’re forcing us to but because we’re compelled to. And I think that’s the important thing here.”