When Sacrificing Everything Gets You Paid

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers

How ironic is it that in a league that tinkers with its overtime rules in order to minimize the chances of a tie, its biggest story becomes just that. Because that’s how I’m feeling after the Kaepernick/Reid settlement with the NFL. It feels a hell of a lot like a tie to me, and here’s why.

On the one hand, the dudes got paid. And by virtue of the gag order attached to this, the NFL has admitted to some form of collusion. Granted, we might never know to what extent and who the major players were, but still . . the league lost.

Or did it?

Because this settlement shakes out to where each owner will pay out about a million and a half bucks a year. That’s sofa cushion money in a league where the average franchise is valued at more than two and a half billion dollars. Chalk it up as a loss for the league owners, but call it what it is: Hush money.

The league doesn’t lose high profile cases very often, not without means that protect their rear ends they don’t.

In 1982, Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL when they blocked his proposed move to LA. Davis won the suit and moved his team to LA, after which he kept right on going after the NFL. Davis sued for LA market rights, after which he sued for the right to move everywhere from Sacramento and Inglewood to Kilimanjaro. He lost every time and eventually became an eccentric ‘renegade’ millionaire while the league just kept getting bigger and stronger.

The NFL is an entity that has navigated every kind of shit storm, and has always come out smelling like a rose. Consider . . .

  • Gun scandals (Plaxico Burress, Adam Jones, et al)
  • Political scandals (Eddie DeBartolo)
  • Spy-Gate (Patriots)
  • Bounty-Gate (Saints)
  • Michael Vick dog fighting ring
  • Ray Lewis’s obstruction of justice plea in a murder trial
  • Ray Rice arrest on assault charges
  • Ben Roethlisberger suspension on alleged rape charges
  • Aaron Hernandez murder conviction
  • CTE

Those are only some of highlights of the league’s off the field ‘business’ since the turn of the millennium. And yet, league revenue is at an all time high with expectations that legalized gambling will send profits into orbit.

If a league can’t be tarnished for covering up brain injuries, do you really think it’s losing sleep over a national anthem protest? Me either. The NFL has already paid out more than half a billion dollars in its concussion settlement, and nobody is talking about it. So this anthem protest settlement is all about sating Kaepernick and Reid without having to divulge more sensitive information. An insurance policy, if you will.

As for whether Kaep gets another shot in the NFL, that’s as much on him as it is on an NFL owner. If he wants to be a starter who demands starter money, it’s going to be tough sledding. In his last season, he finished with 16 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. His quarterback rating, however, was only 49 percent. Rival coaches and GM’s believed they had figured him out.

Two years ago, I argued that my Dolphins should have signed him. Instead, they blew 10 million on a washed up QB. At the time, owner Stephen Ross claimed that to sign Kaep would have been an affront to the city’s Cuban population. This was in reference to the quarterback’s glowing opinion of Fidel Castro and Che Guvara. But what of the ticket paying population who were laying down big league money for a minor league product? Spare me the politics and give me some sizzle, not to mention a halfway decent shot of being competitive.

Again, what happens from here is mostly up to Kaepernick. His compadre in the anthem protests, Eric Reid, has an NFL job. If Kaepernick really wants back in, he would be wise to invest that settlement money wisely whilst being reasonable as per his value to a team at this point.  I don’t doubt a team would sign him, if he was willing to take less money and maybe even go in as a backup. Get in the door first, then show them what you got.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Washington or Carolina signed him as a potential starter or integral backup, respectively. And don’t count out the Patriots, who ain’t afraid of controversy. The particulars of a Kaepernick contract are almost as fascinating as finding out whether he has anything left on his fastball. Would it be incentives heavy? Would an owner dare put a no kneeling clause in his contract? The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with a peaceful protest in which Kaepernick consulted a Green Beret on how to go about it. I wanted my team to sign him, not because I’m all about social justice, but because I honestly believed his talent far outweighed any off the field criticisms. I wasn’t down with his take on butchers like Castro or Guavara, but I respected his right to feel that way. And I sure as hell wasn’t in agreement with his support of Assata Shakur, a convicted cop killer.

When the anthem protests and resultant backlash began to reach a boiling point, I wrote about how Kaepernick was just a kid who didn’t understand the gravity of the cause he was undertaking. I felt he was skimming his toe in the pool of social progress, rather than diving in. I cringed at the idea that he was being mentioned in the same sentence with names such as King and Ali. His decision to take the NFL money proves I was right to think the way I did. That whole Nike ad campaign about sacrificing everything didn’t include taking over a hundred million dollars in sorry money from the NFL. King didn’t do it that way, and neither did Ali. Kaepernick isn’t a civil rights icon. He’s just a kid with cool hair who may or may not have something left in the tank.

And maybe he’s not who his most fervent supporters thought he was. But he’s also not stupid. Because a hundred million bucks is a hundred million bucks. And he has a right to have any fucking opinion he wants to have, even if I don’t agree with it. And a league full of billionaires who made their bones by taking risks should grow a pair. Talk to him, give him some what’s what. Sign him. Because right now, this whole episode has no winners.

And I hate ties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a time for kneeling, and a time for standing up

Nike Ad

I am totally down with the new Nike ad campaign that features former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, even if I’m not sold on the feng shui of this union just yet.

Let’s chill with this idea that Kaepernick is this generation’s Muhammad Ali. This, ain’t that. I’m not talking about what each man risked in their respective protests, because each did result in a loss of employment. No, I’m talking about the dialogue that was culled from it.

Kaepernick is the face of a movement that is still struggling to define itself even now, mostly because you hardly ever hear the man speak. Silence does not a movement grow, and it’s one of the many reasons the anthem protests have stuttered and stalled.

Granted, this isn’t all the young man’s fault. We do live in an age where every particular is dissected and disseminated until its original intent is no longer the conversation. Problem is, his polarizing moments have followed the precepts of Instagram in that they provided optics without saying a word. Wearing socks that depict cops as pigs, sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt and touting the qualities of Fidel Castro makes Kaepernick look like one of those Hollywood fools. It sure as hell doesn’t further a movement that is in dire need of a driver.

All due respect to Kaepernick, but the anthem protests needed an Ali; it needed a voice that wouldn’t shrink under the scrutiny, a presence whose conviction would augment the steep and bumpy road to progress. I realize movements don’t work that way and that to wish for such a thing is to mitigate the organic qualities that make a cause worth fighting for. Rosa Parks didn’t choreograph her bus ride home, after all. She was just tired of the way things were and decided to do something about it.

Kaepernick is the accidental social activist. People forget that in the genesis of these anthem protests, his football career had suffered a downward trajectory. Defensive coordinators had figured him out; his statistics and his team’s record bear this out. Long gone was the shine of that Super Bowl ride he took San Francisco on a few years earlier.

It made his banishment from the league that much easier to justify, because owners could point to the numbers in explaining why he couldn’t latch onto another job after his team cut him loose. This ignores the fact that Kaep was still a better option than a bunch of quarterbacks who were still drawing paychecks from NFL teams. Not to mention the fact that my Miami Dolphins paid Jay Cutler- a quarterback with nothing left in the tank- 10 million dollars to come out of retirement for what amounted to a four month Florida vacation. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that one of Kaepernick’s former teammates and a fellow protester, Eric Reid, is still looking for a job. Reid is a twenty six year old all-pro who just so happens to be in his prime, so I’ll let you connect the dots on that one.

When you do the math, the anthem protests have resulted in jobless brothers and a shitload of rhetoric and double talk from both sides. From President Trump to Serena Williams to the NFL cutting a big check to various social causes as if that makes up for the fact they just don’t get it. Call me a cynic, but that doesn’t feel like progress to me.

The Nike ads speak to us in the language of our times. It’s a glossy meme that basically tells us to pick a side, theirs. It’s a ballsy move by a company that practices its Just Do It preach. Bringing Kaepernick into the fold was provocative, not to mention, good business sense.

Because it’s the bottom line that is driving this, not the company’s social conscience. This is, after all, a company that made its bones on three hundred dollar sneakers made in third world countries for pennies on the dollar. Phil Knight is a brilliant businessman who will never be confused with Mahatma Gandi.

There are going to be plenty of people who slam Kaepernick for getting in bed with a company that doesn’t give a fig about social justice. But not me. I never begrudge a man for making bank, it’s un-American. I simply hope that with this new platform, he is able to grow into the job of social activist. He proved that he’s invested in furthering his brand. Now I want him to use Nike the way they’re intent on using him. Use this spotlight to mobilize, challenge and yes, speak out.

Just do it.