Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still looking for a job just weeks before the NFL season begins Sept. 7. There have been reports of teams expressing interest, such as the Seattle Seahawks in May and most recently the Baltimore Ravens. However, both teams elected to sign journeymen with suspect quarterback pedigrees.
Instead of Kaepernick, the Seahawks signed Austin Davis, who has spent time with three other teams in the league and made 10 career starts with a record of 3-7 in those games. The Ravens inked a deal with David Olson. The 25-year-old last played in a Midwest-based arena football league for the Kansas City Phantoms. He played college ball for Stanford and Clemson, completing one pass in his collegiate career for a one-yard loss.
Kaepernick’s 28-30 career record, 72 touchdown passes and 59.8 pass completion percentage place him in the middle of the pack of starting NFL quarterbacks, but even Mike Glennon received a three-year $45 million deal from the Bears before Kaepernick, despite two straight years as a backup and just 18 career starts.
So, if not his skills as quarterback, it must be his political views and practice of kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustices he genuinely cares about. Some suggest his actions would be a distraction for the team and divide the locker room, but Kaepernick did win the 2016 Len Eshmont award, the 49ers’ most prestigious annual honor, which was voted on by his teammates. That doesn’t sound like an award given to someone who was a divisive presence in the locker room.
The NFL does not waste its time on players who may be a distraction or bring extra baggage with them — except for all of those who continually get busted for drugs, drinking and driving and, most infamously, domestic abuse. A judge found former Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting his then-girlfriend. Hardy appealed to have a new trial in front of a jury and the case was ultimately dismissed after a settlement was reached and she stopped cooperating with officials. None of this prevented the Dallas Cowboys from seizing the opportunity to give Hardy a second chance to the tune of $11.3 million.
Recently, as Kaepernick was being considered by Baltimore, team president Dick Cass said at a fan forum that the team was reaching out to fans and team sponsors to gauge the reaction if they did sign Kaepernick. “We’re sensitive to it, we’re monitoring it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said. “So, pray for us.”
Ray Rice didn’t get vetted by the Ravens fan base when he knocked out his fiancée and dragged her unconscious body from an elevator in 2014. A little over a month after the incident, Bisciotti confirmed at the NFL owners’ meetings that Rice would definitely be back with the team. “I’ve been on record of saying my definition of character is repeating offenses,” Bisciotti said. “If we’re all one strike and you’re out, then we’re all in trouble. It’s how you respond to adversity.” But second chances don’t apply to political statements by an athlete.
Many circumstances allow for second chances to be given. At this point, Kaepernick has said he intends to stand for the anthem this season. Nevertheless, it appears NFL owners and fans are more forgiving of domestic violence than what they perceive as an unpatriotic act.
Teams choose when they have morals, and so do NFL fans.
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.