Joe Mixon, who punched a woman on film, has an NFL job. So does accused rapist Gareon Conley. So do accused abusers Caleb Brantley and Dede Westbrook. Even Ishmael Zamora, who violently beat a dog on video, has an NFL job waiting for him.
Colin Kaepernick, who staged a nonviolent protest last season to bring awareness to racial and social injustice in this country, is not as lucky as those NFL prospects, who will be rookies this season for teams that gave them the benefit of the doubt and a second chance on blind faith.
Many NFL players have said Kaepernick, a free agent, is being blackballed by the league because he led the national anthem protests last season. Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, two players who either knelt or raised a fist during the anthem last season, have said something stinks about Kaepernick, a man who led the Niners to a Super Bowl and back-to-back NFC Championship Games, not getting a contract while a parade of other marginal quarterbacks have been signed this offseason.
This week, Peter King’s MMQB website published a column in which the idea that at least one team thinks Kaepernick is more committed to doing social work than being an NFL quarterback is behind his lack of a job.
“So Kaepernick has bought a place in downtown Manhattan and lives in the big city fairly anonymously,” King writes. “I spent a long draft weekend with the Niners in California, and there are those in the building who think Kaepernick might actually rather do social justice work full-time than play quarterback.
“He emerges in New York City occasionally for noble cause work, last week donating 100 men’s suits to a parole office in Queens, so recipients, recently out of prison, would look more presentable when going on job interviews,” he said. “I haven’t talked to Kaepernick, so I have no idea what his gut is telling him about what to do with his life. But it’s crazy that a quarterback who four years ago was coming off a Super Bowl appearance and looked to be a long-term answer has no team now and no hot NFL prospects that anyone can see.”
King adds that “If I were a pro scout or a GM with a starting or backup quarterback need, I’d be on a plane to New York to have lunch with Kaepernick to ask him where he sees his life going. And if he sees a football future, and if I had a great quarterback coach (Sean McVay with the Rams, Bruce Arians in Arizona), I’d sign him to an incentive-laden contract. Right now.”
The idea that Kaepernick is being shunned because of his off-field activism isn’t hard to believe. Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas recently said Kaepernick would be considered a “distraction” and most teams would try to distance themselves from the media crush Kaepernick would attract. Thomas said teams should be focused on football and having to answer questions about a player like Kaepernick would be distracting and counterproductive.
Except the Browns selected Brantley last month in the sixth round of the draft despite an assault charge hanging over his head. The team later said they might not be “comfortable” with Brantley under contract after he allegedly knocked a woman out just last month.
Picking a guy who is accused of punching a woman in the face just weeks before the draft points to the broken moral compass many pro sports teams are guided by. Brantley is not a distraction but Kaepernick, who is working to make the world a better place, is too much of one?
That’s almost as ridiculous as the 49ers indicating to King that their former QB can’t possibly balance football and social work.
What about all the players who get in trouble off the field like Mixon who must do community service as part of their punishment? What about the many good guys in the league who don’t get nearly as much attention as their sociopathic colleagues?
Last year, Daily News Giants writer Pat Leonard penned an excellent story about the impact Eli Manning has had off the field, detailing his wonderful charity efforts.
“He’s like a philanthropy Superman,” Chris Napoli, 22, a College of New Jersey senior whose non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in remission, told Leonard about Manning’s work.
Has Manning or any other NFL player been asked to tone down the charity work, to meet with fewer sick kids, because it was getting in the way of him being an NFL quarterback? Likely not.
Last year, when Kaepernick was donating upwards of $ 500,000 to organizations that stand up for poor people, minorities, immigrants and military veterans, balancing football and making the world a better place was never an issue.
But, for some reason, it is now.
And it’s not an issue for any other player in any other sport than Kaepernick. Just like how teams look the other way when it comes to giving accused criminals a second chance or a fresh start, Kaepernick doesn’t get that kind of courtesy. Now it seems he has to choose between charity work and football work.
There’s something wrong with pro sports when teams contort themselves to fit square pegs with criminal histories into the round holes of social acceptance, while seemingly shunning a guy who took a knee to bring awareness to real problems many people face in this country.
Kaepernick is much more than an NFL quarterback. And it’s evident that maybe without football to consume much of his time, some communities might just be better off without him in the league, because Kaepernick might have even more time to devote to the causes closest to his heart.
In the end, is that really a loss for the NFL, or a win for the people he’s dedicated to helping?