Last season, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was one of the NFL players who participated in a form of demonstration during pregame performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Jenkins raised his fist, along with several of his teammates; in Week 3 of the 2016-17 season, at least 35 players across the league knelt, raised fists, or otherwise used the playing of the national anthem as an opportunity to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality in America.
The continued unemployment of Colin Kaepernick—the first and most prominent and outspoken participant in last season’s national anthem protests—is an ongoing embarrassment for the NFL: Kaepernick’s 90.7 passer rating last season was a very respectable 17th-best in the NFL; his completion percentage (59 percent) and yards per attempt (6.77) don’t blow you away, but his overall production is certainly that of a legitimate NFL quarterback; he’s not yet 30 years old; and his mobility would seem to make him an attractive backup QB option for many NFL teams. Instead, those positions are going to stiffs like Dan Orlovsky and Geno Smith—Brock Osweiler is being used as trade bait, and he is completely fucking useless.
Speaking to delawareonline.com, Jenkins offered some strong words for owners and organizations who have shied away from signing Kaepernick:
“This is just some other teams being, quite honestly, cowards, to say that they’re afraid of backlash to sign someone to make their team better when fans’ input has never been in the equation when it comes to signing people in the past,” Jenkins told delawareonline.com Thursday.
“It’s certain owners’ way of making an example out of [Kaepernick] to discourage anybody else from doing what he did.”
No one criterion or priority accounts for the decisions of all teams that have passed on Kaepernick this offseason, but the “afraid of backlash” argument is a little hard to take seriously, generally, when NFL fans have embraced guys like Ben Roethlisberger, or Ray Lewis, or Donté Stallworth, or Adrian Peterson, or many dozens of other players who’ve been associated with or accused of or convicted of actual criminal behavior. Colin Kaepernick demonstrated against systemic racism—in the realm of NFL player misdeeds, this makes him roughly a Cub Scout. The NFL’s problem isn’t so much that there might be a backlash against Kaepernick as it is that the backlash might come from a segment of fans the NFL counts as its absolute core audience. Of course, it should go without saying that anyone who’d boycott or otherwise disavow the league for employing a man who took a principled position against an evident problem is a moron.
The “afraid of backlash” excuse isn’t the only one Jenkins disassembles:
“Four months ago, there was a debate as to whether [Kaepernick] is talented enough or whatever,” Jenkins said. “I think at this point in time when you look at the quarterbacks who have jobs around the league, and the amount of owners and GMs who have only spoken of what fans would think about his stance. I think it’s safe to throw out that talent argument, and basically focus on the fact that he doesn’t have a job solely because he didn’t stand for the anthem last year, even though he already expressed that he planned on standing this year.
“That message, to me, is loud and clear from owners as to where their priorities stand and how they go about picking and choosing who they want on their teams. It’s definitely unfortunate, but it’s shining a light on just how the NFL operates and what we deem as acceptable. It really has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong, but what affects dollars. That’s business as usual, but I think it’s an unfortunate precedent to set.”