NFL Hasn’t Yet Resolved Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

There’s only a few weeks until the 2019 NFL season begins, but the league last week discovered that a problem they thought wouldn’t reappear this season hasn’t been resolved. Instead the question of what exactly happened to former QB Colin Kaepernick, and how he was treated by the NFL, is once more in the news despite the settlement that was reached between the league, Kaepernick, and Eric Reed back in February. At that time, it was announced that the collusion case had been settled, and a nondisclosure agreement was in place. All the owners’ depositions and discovery evidence was also supposedly buried, and the NFL thought they had ended the controversy.

Seldom has anyone been more wrong. Whatever agreement Kaepernick signed, he’s not staying silent on the sidelines. He’s made video drops proclaiming that he’s “still ready,” letting everyone know that he still has been “denied work.” Other players like Reid, now with the Carolina Panthers, and the NY Giants Saquon Barkley, are still proclaiming their support for him. Things escalated to a new level last week in another situation that didn’t go exactly as the NFL anticipated.

That was the heavily publicized agreement announced between music and sports mogul Jay-Z and the NFL. Jay-Z agreed to help provide entertainment for NFL events and also “content and space” for various players to contribute to NFL social justice programs. But instead of universal acclaim, there was lots of skepticism expressed regarding the deal, with some, Reid among them, proclaiming Jay-Z “a sellout” for aligning himself with the league. Jay-Z responded he’d both consulted with Kaepernick prior to signing the deal (something Kaepernick’s girl friend disputed), and that he felt he could be a force for change by being on the inside.

TMZ Sports threw another iron into the fire with a report claiming this deal was a prelude to Jay-Z soon becoming majority owner of a team. The report didn’t say which team, nor how much money it would cost, nor whether this meant Jay-Z was part of a consortium, or doing this on his own. But the mere allegation there was ownership connections to the deal led Reid to bitterly denounce Jay-Z as a “capitalist sellout.” Things have gotten so hot that even the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton have jumped into the situation, urging that folks not be so quick to denounce Jay-Z,. and saying that perhaps there are more details yet to be revealed,

From the league’s perspective, they seemed surprised and shocked that Kaepernick hasn’t stopped seeking employment, nor letting everyone know he feels he was blackballed. But in the absence of any information regarding exactly what’s in the nondisclosure agreement, if there’s no prohibition in there forbidding him from discussing his situation, then he’s not violating any law. Since the league also never disclosed how much money either he or Reid were paid, nor allowed anyone to publicly view the depositions of the owners, it’s hard for them to now turn around and claim the are being ambushed.

No one should doubt that the timing of the Jay-Z deal wasn’t calculated. It came only a few days before the third anniversary of Kaepernick being out of football. It was done at a national press conference, one convened before most of the league’s top writers and broadcasters. But what they thought was going to be a PR bonanza turned out to be more of a horror show, as reporters repeatedly grilled both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay-Z about the deal,

Jay-Z has been taking heat not only from Reid and writers like the Atlantic’s Jemele Hill, but from activists and social media types, as well as some of his rap colleagues. It’s doubtful he anticipated anywhere near the amount of negative feedback that he received regarding this deal. It also hasn’t helped his case that the NFL’s “social justice initiatives” remain rather unclear. What exactly does that part of the deal entail? Also if its true that Jay-Z is going to be a majority owner of an NFL team, a lot more specifics should be forthcoming. It will be really interesting for example to see if the same people who didn’t want Mark Cuban in the NFL are now willing to give their OK to Jay-Z.

It will also be interesting to see what actions, if any, are taken regarding the ongoing blunt criticism of the league coming from active players like Reid and Barkley. Reid’s already claimed he’s been the victim of unfair treatment regarding random drug testing. Barkley’s thus far not had any similar complaints against the Giants, but that’s a team that’s already unloaded one gifted player (Odell Beckham) because they were uncomfortable with his image and public personna. 

Most importantly, it’s clear that the Colin Kaepernick issue is NOT going to go away any time soon, if ever, and if the NFL didn’t realize it before, they certainly should now.

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