Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a good long hiatus, but welcome back to The Triple Double! While I have been busy with other projects related to The Ball Out, I have been long wanting to do a new column. However, it was going to have to take something monumental for me to come off the bench because truth be told, I felt like I was growing stale and needed to shake things up.
Lo and behold, between last Tuesday and Saturday, the sports gods blessed me with the inspiration I needed to start speaking up again. And while this is going to just focus on a singular issue this week, I promise you it is important. So let’s deep dive right into the most divisive issue in American sports right now: former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
KAE-PED AT THE KNEES
The 2019 NFL season had already been past the midway point of the season and it was unfortunately clear that despite some terrible play coming from the most premier position in football, one man would never get the chance to prove he could still play amongst the best of them: Colin Kaepernick. Three seasons removed from his now-infamous protests on behalf of social justice for African-Americans, Kaepernick had faded from view in the eyes of hardcore football fans. And those inside the league, for the first time in years, could breathe easily and just focus on the game…as they always wanted.
Then last Tuesday, a random call out of the blue dominated the entire news cycle (and still is):
If you’re someone who knows football, there is a lot to digest simply from this tweet. A workout on a Saturday, when most high-level staff will be traveling and have no time to actually see Kaepernick? Seems strange. But there is more to it than that. When Kaepernick’s representatives asked if there would be media allowed, the league said no. When asked if they could tape the workout, they were told that only the league could tape it and that it would be distributed to all 32 teams.
Considering that the two parties just settled a contentious collusion lawsuit earlier in the year, it is understandable to see why Kaepernick and his team did not trust the NFL on this issue. This has drawn many comparison to the famous workout that Jackie Robinson had with the Boston Red Sox back in 1942, when he and two other Negro Leaguers were brought in for a private workout yet none of them made the team. If you’re just hearing about this for the first time, don’t be alarmed: I just learned about it as well in the last week. Kap’s issue was that if the media would not be allowed to the event, then the NFL would control the entire narrative.
Come Saturday, there was more drama in the air. Unexpectedly, Kaepernick and his team had moved the workout from the Falcons’ practice facility to Charles R. Drew High School an hour away. The NFL, in response, sent out a statement proclaiming their “disappointment” that he didn’t show up. According to Pro Football Talk, however, there was another reason why Kaepernick ultimately moved the workout. On Sunday, PFT published an article explaining the waiver that the NFL wanted Kaepernick to sign (you can view the waiver here).
I’m not a lawyer, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is. In the above-mentioned report, he gave his advice on what he would have done (and was done) if he were Kaepernick’s lawyer:
“If I were representing Kaepernick, and if the goal were to have a genuine workout aimed at enhancing his chances of being signed by an NFL team, I would have asked immediately for the document to be revised to specifically clarify that any and all potential employment rights would be preserved. If the league had refused, I wouldn’t have signed it, because the language leaves the door sufficiently ajar for a subsequent defense to a collusion/retaliation case that signing the waiver extinguished the claims.”Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
According to multiple reports, 24 teams had shown up to the NFL’s scheduled workout, but only 7 followed to the new site: the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins. And after the workout, Kaepernick held a small media session, thanking them for their efforts and then sent a message directly to the NFL:
I’ve had plenty of time over the week to think about this, and what I am about to say may turn some people off. But I feel that this much has been made very clear: while I do not agree with everything Colin Kaepernick did leading to or at the workout, he just beat the NFL in their own game. Sure, Jason Whitlock, Stephen A. Smith and Tomi Lahren can say that Kaepernick pulled a huge stunt to make this all about him and that maybe his heart isn’t into playing anymore; that’s expected because they are part of huge media corporations that are tend to run on the conservative point of view.
But if you broke this down for what it is, let’s tell the truth: the NFL is an image-run league. Colin Kaepernick showed he is still capable of playing (which shuts down the narrative that he ‘doesn’t have it’), and from a PR perspective, while he seems combative, he is openly welcoming the NFL in good faith to come knock on his door. Of the teams that went to the workout, at least four of them could use him as a quality backup or as a mentor to a young starter.
Yet, there has been no public show by any team that they are interested, despite BET reporting that two unnamed teams have inquired about signing him.
From both a PR and talent perspective, the NFL just got exposed as frauds. Even if Kaepernick never plays another down in the NFL, he has at least made sure that history won’t forget this moment.
What are you thoughts on this situation and how it unfolded? I’d love to have an honest conversation with everyone about it. That being said, thank you for tuning in to another edition of The Triple Double, and I’ll be back next week for a special Black Friday edition!
Before joining The Ball Out, Chris Bullock was part of SB Nation’s Swish Appeal for nearly three years, covering everything women’s basketball. Chris has had the honor of doing live coverage of the WNBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, and also was given his own column, “The Triple Double”. A self-described “foodaholic”, Chris lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two daughters, and also hosts his own podcast, “Conscious Cravings”, where he speaks about his experience as a mental health advocate.