Friday, September 1, 2017
Between the hashmarks
Football season is upon us and once again the main topic of discussion is the national anthem. Some are sitting in support of Colin Kaepernick, who remained unsigned through the pre-season despite being the best quarterback available in free agency. Denver would rather experiment with a slough of novices than sign a quarterback they were willing to trade for a year ago, but couldn't come to terms with the 49ers. Colin would fetch a much lower price today. Seattle had a shot at Colin but chose to stick with second-year quarterback Trevone Boykin, who ran into legal problems during the offseason and hasn't exactly shined in the pre-season. Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti literally asked for prayers in helping to reach a decision on Kaepernick.
It really makes you wonder what's at stake here -- the integrity of the NFL or how to respond to a restless fan base that has very strong emotions when it comes to the national anthem? The NFL has remained as equivocal as you would expect on the issue, saying it is the players' choice. But, if it is the players' choice then why is Kaepernick being blackballed? No team is willing to sign him, fearful of the repercussions it would bring. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business and doesn't want to see its ratings plummet anymore than they already have since Colin first took a knee during the pre-season last year.
Since then other players have joined his protest and others have voiced their opinion on the matter. Aaron Rodgers offered one of the more cogent statements on the issue. This is no longer seen as a "black issue" among NFL players. Most sympathize with their teammates while they stand for the anthem.
If Colin doesn't get signed, it seems Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks will be the new lightning rod. He's repeatedly voiced his support for Kaepernick and was notably upset Seattle didn't sign him when the front office had the chance. As a result, Bennett is sitting for the national anthem. He's been joined by other teammates, notably Justin Britt who stood beside Michael with a hand on his shoulder to show his solidarity.
Players haven't felt this strongly about an issue in a long time. Mostly they don't like how league owners have colluded to freeze out Colin, when they have no problem signing ex-felons. Michael Vick got a second chance, why not Colin Kaepernick?
In a strange way, Kaepernick's plight is similar to that of Tim Tebow, who found himself blackballed a few years back when owners had a hard time coming to grips with his strong religious convictions. Tebow had led the Broncos to the playoffs after a 1-4 start and became the darling of Evangelicals across the country. In Tim's case, owners didn't want to deal with the enormous popular attention he was getting, it overshadowed everything else on the team. Tebow was dumped on the New York Jets to make room for Peyton Manning, and the Jets dropped him after a tumultuous year where Rex Ryan tried any number of quarterbacks but not Tim. No one picked him in the free agency market.
Some of the arguments used against Tim are now being used against Colin. It's not political or religious, football pundits say, but has to do with mechanics. Neither player is a greater passer. It doesn't matter that Tim led a moribund team to the playoffs or that Colin led his team to the Super Bowl, if a quarterback can't hit a simple out route what good is he? Stories like these quickly gained currency and Tim no longer had a chance of making any team. The longer Colin sits out, similar stories will be generated.
The league is filled with journeymen quarterbacks who may be able to throw an out route but have done little else to make a name for themselves. The NFL still prefers drop-back quarterbacks to option quarterbacks even though option quarterbacks led their teams to the Super Bowl 4 of the last 5 seasons. Russell Wilson was the only option quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but the defense was largely credited for that victory. So, the stigma remains.
Even Aaron sees the hypocrisy here, saying it is "ignorant" to think Colin isn't playing for football reasons. Rodgers noted players on his own team that sided with Colin and the issue he tried to bring to the forefront with his protest. The Green Bay quarterback says he understands fully what his black teammates have to deal with when it comes to racial profiling.
Yet, Bisciotti hasn't heard enough prayers, Seattle is determined to stick with Boykin as Wilson's back up, and Denver still hasn't settled on a starting quarterback. The three teams that really could use a quarterback of Colin's capabilities.
How long Michael Bennett extends his protest into the season and if more players join him remains to be seen. It was an easier decision to boycott the NFL when the protesting players were all black but now that white players have joined, it becomes a bit tougher. Still many fans put their allegiance to the flag over football.
That would be nice if they expressed the same attitude toward white supremacists, whom they seem to believe are entitled to the right of free speech. Woe be it to a football player to sits for the national anthem.