So Colin Kaepernick now has the NAACP and civil rights activists joining in his job search. While I’ve not heard any officials explicitly call it racism, some have certainly implied it.
Of course it isn’t about racism at all. Kaepernick is a quarterback who almost – almost, mind you – helped San Francisco win Super Bowl XLVII against Baltimore.
Over the years, however, his numbers (those all important stats*) have fluctuated. At times he posted impressive numbers, at others he was plagued by interceptions or deplorably low passing yards. He eventually was relegated to second string (a gain of four passing yards in an NFL game will do that). Then he started his protests. His protest spawned a trend in a year that saw NFL ratings dropping and revenues threatened. The reasons for the decline were several, by the way. Not just the protests. But it wasn’t despite the protests either.
Now, we know from people fired from private companies because of their opinions that companies have this right. They have a right to watch the bottom line. Perhaps if Kaepernick was a Tom Brady, or Joe Montana, or Terry Bradshaw, leading his team to Super Bowl victory after Super Bowl victory, teams would likely turn a blind eye to other mischief.
But a fellow whose skills are, at best, inconsistent, who has become the face of a trend that many fans have cited as one reason for watching the Golf Channel instead of pro football, owners have to ask a question: Is he worth it?
Same question came with Tim Tebow a few years ago. As my oldest boy (our resident sports expert) says, the number of rookie quarterbacks whose debut involved turning a losing program around and leading it past the first round of the playoffs, and then subsequently benched, is small. That usually at least puts you in the front seat somewhere. But Tebow was through. Almost as soon as he played, he was gone. Even other teams benched him and gave him little to no play time.
Why? Because he was toxic. Sure, he produced some respectable stats. But not enough to counter the controversy and the backlash against his conservative views. FWIW, Tebow – one of the most successful college football players of all time – was always a discussion piece. Would his style of play transfer to the NFL? But even critics were stunned at his sudden benching after his impressive debut. Most people were smart enough to know what was happening.
Same here. Kaepernick is poison. He brought an extra problem to the NFL when it is already neck deep in problems, and he’s not that consistent. He just isn’t. Not good enough to balance the problems. And since we know that companies have every right to can people when their views or opinions jeopardize the brand, it shouldn’t be a problem.
It certainly shouldn’t be about race, since it obviously isn’t. They’re saying that violent criminals get to play, and that is true. That was said back in the Tebow days. And don’t get people started on Pete Rose. That’s a point worth debating, but it has nothing to do with race.
Making it about race when it obviously isn’t cheapens racism. If racism just becomes an Ace someone plays to cover up their behavior, actions, or lack of ability, then racism becomes not much. If it becomes a cheap ploy to circumvent responsibility or lack of performance, then it becomes cheap.
The same thing happened, BTW, back in Louisville in the 90s. The University of Louisville, while having a struggling football program, was planning a new stadium. A new coach, Ron Cooper, was hired to turn things around. But in the face of a looming stadium project, Cooper proved unable to improve the program. In fact, by his third year, their record plunged to a losing season with only one win (and that against the ’97 University of Illinois team, which was like having no wins) I mean, they lost to UK for crying out loud. So they canned him. Universities will do that to losing coaches when there is a big building project on the horizon.
In swooped Jesse Jackson along with other Civil Rights activists. They came and marched in Louisville, gave interviews, and called it racism. Obviously it wasn’t. Had he been a winning coach, had he even shown some promise, maybe the argument could be made. But when you take a program from 7-4 to 1-10, you’re not going to last long on that level of competition.
Again, exploiting racism for personal gain, or ramrodding agendas, cheapens racism. People can see through it. You can call them racists of course. But that only cheapens it further.
If you think Kaepernick should play, OK. That’s fine. We all know why he isn’t: too much controversy, not enough stats. But don’t make it about race. In a profession where 70% of players are black, far out of proportion of the African American population, when many of those violent criminals who have been let back in are, in fact, black players, trying to make this about race is obvious BS. And BS in this case is not a fertilizer you can spread in the hopes that something beautiful will grow. In this case, it smothers the very issue that is supposed to be so important.
*Stats in sports is that ever tangled forest of debate into which angels fear to tread. See the current debate over LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan for an example.