Don't you find it interesting that, as the 2017 National Football League campaign is about to begin, Colin Kaepernick still doesn't have a job?
Kaepernick, of course, is the former San Francisco 49ers' quarterback who caused such a firestorm last season when he boldly (some would say stupidly) refused to stand for the national anthem due to what he cited as blatant racism and police brutality in our country.
His actions divided football fans and political commentators across the country, as they emotionally sided with one or other school of thought, which were diametrically opposed to one another.
Some felt that Kaepernick's anthem protest was terribly disgraceful and disrespectful of our nation's flag and what it stands for, in particular to those who've valiantly fought and died to defend this country and preserve our freedoms.
Others said Kaepernick was merely exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of expression, those sacred rights that are guaranteed to all of us by the Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution — in essence, the same rights and freedoms that those who've served this country have fought and died for.
His pregame routine made some of us feel angry and uncomfortable. It made others feel proud and vindicated, and NFL players and fans lined up on both sides of that politically charged fence.
Well, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers following the end of last season. And now, eight months later, no other NFL team has signed him yet.
Is it because, as some observers have said, he's just not that good of a quarterback? Or has Kaepernick been blackballed by NFL owners who've decided they simply don't want to deal with the bad publicity, baggage and controversy that Kaepernick might bring to their teams?
Sure, there was a time when Kaepernick was regarded as one of the league's best young dual-threat quarterbacks. After all, he took over for an injured Alex Smith and led the 49ers all the way to a Super Bowl berth at the end of the 2012 season. And he subsequently got ’em to the NFC championship game again the following year.
But with the 49ers' franchise falling on tough times since then, Kaepernick's statistics have slipped considerably. Last season, he averaged just 187 yards passing a game — ranking him 30th in a league comprised of 32 teams — and his completion percentage of 59.2 ranked just 26th in the NFL.
Longtime NFL running back LeSean McCoy said Kaepernick's unemployment has to do with both factors — the QB isn't good enough to help a team win ballgames and, if he won't be a big difference-maker for them, then NFL front offices don't want to deal with all the potential headaches that he'd bring along with him.
“That may have something to do with it," McCoy, quoted in recent published reports, said of the trouble that signing Kaepernick might cause, "but I think it also has a lot to do with his play. I’m sure a lot of teams wouldn’t want him as their starting quarterback. Then it’s the chaos that comes with it — it’s a lot."
In a nutshell, McCoy said Kaepernick's talent level isn't worth all the distractions that come with him.
"As a player, there’s certain players that can be on a team with big distractions, and other players, they’re not good enough that it’s worth it," McCoy said. "I think his situation is, (he's) not good enough to have on a team with all the attention that comes along with it."
"I’m sure if a guy like (New England Patriots QB Tom) Brady or a guy like — whoever is your favorite player, (controversial N.Y. Giants receiver) Odell Beckham or a guy like that — you’ll deal with that attention and play him. (But) with certain guys, it’s not worth it."
“I think the whole Kaepernick situation, in this country you can believe what you want, freedom of speech. I think maybe they could choose a better platform to state their beliefs," said McCoy, who is African-American. "One thing I’ve learned about is that people in America, they’re followers. There’s some people that if you ask about these topics, they’ll say what they heard, not what they know.”
Truth be told, though, Kaepernick is probably a better quarterback than most of the backup QBs who currently have jobs in the NFL. Heck, he may even be better than a few of the guys who'll be starting at quarterback for their teams in next Sunday's season-openers.
But his anthem protest seems to have backfired on him and, fair or not, NFL owners now appear leery of bringing him on board — surprisingly enough, even if he's capable of helping them win ballgames.
I must admit that I was extremely disappointed in his actions last year, and I was disgusted by some of the other malicious things I heard him say and do as the season wore on.
There's no doubt that this country isn't perfect, that racism, bigotry and prejudice definitely still exist in many ugly and evil ways, and that police brutality remains a hateful, embarrassing problem in our country. Indeed, black lives do matter, as do all lives, and far too many of them are being taken or shattered by bad cops whose actions are needlessly careless, cruel and violent.
That said, I feel like NFL teams are sending a message that certain behavior will not be tolerated — unless, of course, you're an exceptional player who might help ’em win a championship. Then, it seems, anything goes.
And don't be surprised if, the first time an NFL quarterback is seriously hurt or sidelined this season, Kaepernick's phone will start ringing. Yes, some team in need will come calling eventually.
But when it comes time for a professional athlete to stage a personal protest against what our flag and our anthem stand for, I think legendary Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, a longtime civil rights activist who's been known to be very outspoken, said it best.
"I want to be in his corner, and I do think, 'God bless him,'" Brown said. "I'm going to give you the real deal: I'm an American. I don't desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I'm not gonna do anything against the flag and national anthem. I'm going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I'll work out the problems, but I'll do it in an intelligent manner.
"If you have a cause, I think you should organize it, present it in a manner where it's not only you standing or sitting on one knee, but a lot of people that is gonna get behind each other and do something about it."
Well said, Mr. Brown. Well said indeed.