It is my turn to weigh in on the seemingly never-ending Colin Kaepernick saga. First, however, I feel compelled to do a little civics lesson because it appears that literally millions of Americans are extremely misinformed on what the first amendment really means.
Freedom of Speech does NOT protect you from losing your job over something you say or do. Yes, it does give you SOME protection against reprisal, but the vast majority of that protection pertains to government reprisal nor occupational reprisal. If you don’t believe me, try telling your boss you think he is a complete idiot and see if the Bill of Rights prevents him from firing you. Likewise, if a bartender gets hired by the owner of a pub where a police precinct gathers after their shift to blow off steam and he chooses to where a shirt calling police terrorists, the bar owner is within his rights to demand he change shirts and fire him if he refuses. Many teachers, and a myriad of other types of employees, have been let go or not hired based on things they have posted on social media. The Constitution does not guarantee you can say whatever you want or do whatever you want without it affecting your career. If police had tried to arrest and jail Kaepernick for his stance on them, the first amendment would have protected him.
Which brings us to Colin Kaepernick. At face value, I would argue that no player should be blackballed just because of his or her political stance. However, I would also point out that if you are an entertainer of any sort, you run the risk of alienating your audience, or at least part of it, by making your political beliefs your overall message. Trust me, many actors have seen their opportunities in Hollywood dwindle after becoming vocally conservative and the Dixie Chicks certainly paid a price for insulting a president supported heavily by their mostly conservative audience. With all of that said, I believe firmly that IF Kaepernick was playing at an elite level like, say…Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, he would be on an NFL roster right now regardless of his questionable decision to tell a huge part of his employer’s customers that the country they love has never been great.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has stated that there are lots of quarterbacks on NFL rosters less talented than Kaepernick on NFL rosters. He is correct. There are lots of quarterbacks less talented than Tim Tebow on NFL rosters as well, but Tebow simply is not good enough to be worth the media circus that follows him everywhere he goes. Kaepernick is not good enough to be worth the baggage he himself chose to carry around with him. If you feel so strongly about your political position that you are compelled to insult millions of your customers to stand up for it, you also must be ready to accept the consequences. And, you better be so good that your employer and other team owners do not see it as more advantageous to just avoid employing you.
I also want to take exception with those who want to tell everyone how courageous Kaepernick is for taking his stand and at the same time tell me there should not be any consequences for his stance. If there are not going to be consequences, why would he be courageous? I personally do not agree with his opinion of our law enforcement. While there are bad individuals like any other industry, I firmly believe that most officers are good and that most alleged “brutality” has more to do with people who break the law compounding it by acting like idiots when they eventually interact with police. But, I would not have turned away from the NFL because he stated that opinion. It is how he chose to make his case and how fervently the NFL commissioner seemed to agree with it that caused me to become disgusted with the NFL. Making it a point to show a complete lack of respect for our flag and national anthem is a kick in the face to anyone who believes this is the greatest nation in history and every soldier that lost their life defending that nation. There had to be a better avenue.
If you claim Kaepernick has the right to have an opinion about the country then surely you also agree that the rest of us have a right to have an opinion about his opinion. And if the audience chooses to not tune in to the NFL because of their opinion, and ratings suggest that is exactly what happened, the NFL owners should certainly have the right to choose not to hire an employee that will infuriate a big chunk of his or her customers. For myself, while I did watch fewer NFL games last season due to my disdain for how the league handled this situation, I am too big a Falcons fan not to follow such a great season. Eventually, most fans will return just like baseball, but the insulting of America did cost the NFL ratings and money.
In the end, it really comes down to what Kaepernick has been doing on the field not on the sideline. Over the last three seasons, he is 11-24 as a starter with a completion rate under 60%, with 41 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Over the same period, Russell Wilson is 32-15-1 with a completion percentage near 65 with 75 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. If Kaepernick had Wilson’s stats he’d be on a roster. His numbers are not enticing enough to make any owner want to deal with the headache that comes with signing a man who chose to make himself this controversial. Trying to say that any owner should have to sign him anyway out some pathetic idea of fairness is unrealistic. I would like to see him get one more chance in case his struggles in San Francisco were team issues and not the apparent lack of ability but I certainly grasp why there is a reluctance to sign him.