Ever since arbitrator Stephen Burk rejected the NFL’s request to have the Colin Kaepernick/Eric Reid collusion case dismissed last August, most sage observers knew that at some point a settlement would happen. The league wasn’t going to duplicate the mistake made by MLB a few years ago, when they let their collusion case with the players go into court and lost, opening their processes for contract negotiations to public scrutiny. The NFL stretched things out for dramatic effect, and let Kaepernick dangle for months while Reid signed a one-year veteran’s minimum deal with the Carolina Panthers, but didn’t sever his connection to the lawsuit.
Last Friday, the predictable outcome occurred. The NFL settled with Kapernick and Reid, who a couple of days prior to the settlement had signed a new three-year deal with the Panthers. Both men and the league signed non-disclosure agreements, which effectively keeps the NFL’s business out of the public marketplace. However there have been several articles that estimate the amount of money paid to Kaepernick, the person whose employment has been ended since the end of the 2016 season, at 40-60 million dollars.
Interestingly enough, there was already considerable PR damage done to the NFL from the release of pre-trial depositions including the information that President Donald Trump and Dallas owner Jerry Jones had a conversation in which Trump was quoted telling Jones that “This is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.” There were other on-the-record conversations with the Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft and Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross where it was clear NFL owners’ fear of Trump was controlling how they dealt with Kaepernick.
The NFL also wasn’t going to repeat its performance in the concussion case, where they tried everything from discrediting the information to trying to downplay the qualifications of medical personnel before they finally settled the billion-dollar class action suit filed by the former players. A lot of questions linger regarding the disbursement of the money and who gets how much, but they succeeded in getting the issue out of the news cycle. That was the identical purpose with this settlement, and getting NDAs assures (at least until/unless someone leaks details) that the public doesn’t know the settlement terms, nor see a lot of other damaging information that was going to be entered into evidence by counsel for Kaepernick and Reid.
The next question is what will Kaepernick do moving forward. Chances he ever appears in the NFL are somewhere between slim and none, with a lot better chance of none. The old “distraction” excuse will be trotted out by every team, and at this point, it would be hard not to argue there’s some validity to it, even if it’s also true every team participated in league-wide collusion to exclude him.
But Colin Kaepernick has done something few others can claim, including Tom Brady, who lost his attempt at beating a suspension in the Deflategate fiasco. Kaepernick got the NFL to acknowledge they conspired to keep him unemployed. No matter how they or their defenders choose to spin Friday’s results, they opted for surrender rather than fight. Kaepernick may never wear an NFL uniform again, but he’s done himself and many others a service in exposing the league’s hypocrisy and willingness to be manipulated by a buffoon they once refused to sell a team.