Nearly a year after Colin Kaepernick took a stance (or rather lack of) on what he believed were social injustices, he continues to be a hot topic and one of controversy heading in to the start of this NFL season. The controversy began last year when Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem as a protest of racial oppression and inequality. He explained “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He quickly became the center of debate from those supporting his actions and those who believed his approach was disrespectful. Now, with the regular season less than two weeks away, Kaepernick remains unsigned and without a job in the NFL. The opinions and debate seem to be intensifying as he runs out of time to land a starting role before the season begins.
Yesterday, ESPN reported that Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is not a good enough player to be worth the “distraction” of a team signing him to play. McCoy continued “It’s a lot more than just he’s not on the team because he doesn’t want to stand for the national anthem…That may have something to do with it, but I think also it has a lot to do with his play. I’m sure a lot of teams wouldn’t want him as their starting quarterback. That chaos that comes along with it, it’s a lot.”
Meanwhile, thousands rallied at NFL offices in protest of Kaepernick being unsigned. Even the NAACP got involved as they believed he had been “blackballed” by the NFL in response to the player exercising his First Amendment rights.
At the time of his protests last year, Bleacherreport found some strong opinions and even anger towards Kaepernick:
“I don’t want him anywhere near my team,” one executive told Freeman. “He’s a traitor.”
Said another exec: “He has no respect for our country. F— that guy.”
And from a general manager: “In my career, I have never seen a guy so hated by front office guys as Kaepernick.”
NFL Hall of Fame player, Jim Brown thought Kaepernick was going about it the wrong way and that he would have taken a different approach: “I’m going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.” He also points out that owners are paying these athletes millions of dollars and that he believed players should try to honer the wishes of team owners.
Although the center of the controversy seems to stem from the belief that Kaepernick has somehow been “blackballed” by the NFL as a result of his actions, others have argued that his stock had dropped before last season and that perhaps his performance on the field is of equal concern. Forbes writer, Brian Goff recently wrote about Kaepernick’s marketability before the whole anthem controversy. He pointed out that following exceptionally good seasons in 2012 and 2013, his stats dropped significantly after that. In 2014 and 2015,he ranked 20th and 31st in QB Rating. He also went to 11-14 as a starter in those same years.
It should be noted that it was Kaepernick himself who opted out of his contract to become a free agent and opted out of a $14.5 million deal.
Despite a drop in stats, many believe that he “deserves” a job. Either way, the controversy continues and it seems that many questions are raised by this story:
- Should teams consider whether an athletes behavior or beliefs might be a distraction to the team as part of signing?
- Is it appropriate for owners or coaches to have expectations for what behaviors are acceptable or not while that player is “at work?”
- Is Kaepernick’s current situation the result of his own behaviors?
So what are your thoughts?