The Colin Kaepernick situation really isn’t that complicated. Either you believe he is better than a number of current NFL backup quarterbacks and therefore deserves a job, or you don’t. Either you believe that his outspoken political beliefs have earned him a league-wide blackballing, or you believe he’s not even talented enough to merit such treatment. It’s funny, then, to watch NFL reporters, particularly those well-versed in the language of stooging, twist themselves into knots while trying to write about Kaepernick.
The MMQB’s Albert Breer, who has been hard at work positioning himself as the media’s preeminent White Man Just Asking Questions this summer, is the latest to tangle himself up. In a column today, he argues that Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job yet because he hasn’t talked about how much he’d like to have a job:
So in the immediate wake of the most controversial thing he’s done since he started kneeling for the anthem, I’m ready to align with others who’ve said it: It’s time for Kaepernick to talk for himself. Doesn’t matter how he does it. It can be through the legion of reporters friendly to his efforts. It can be through a video released on social media. It can be through a Facebook page or a press conference.
Whatever. It’s just time for Kaepernick to talk.
The problem is in the vacuum that his silence has created. It’s been filled with speculation and tea-leaf reading. Meanwhile, teams unsure if Kaepernick was truly interested in continuing his NFL career (rather than focusing solely on his causes) are still wondering. And that’s so long as they haven’t been convinced by his most recent actions that he’s out.
Follow the logic of these paragraphs—while pretending that if Kaepernick was putting out Facebook videos and talking to Dave Zirin, stooge reporters and NFL insiders wouldn’t just be presenting that as proof that he’s more interested in branding himself than in football—and you end up in a bit of a weird place. As Breer has it, there are questions about whether Kaepernick is still interested in playing football not because he has specifically expressed reservations about playing, but because he has continued to show an interest in political causes. Perhaps in the mind of Breer and the front-office types whose conventional wisdom he likes to pass on uncritically, having an interest in something that is not football makes it impossible to also be interested in football. (Is this the case for LeBron James, who wants to become a Hollywood power player? Or Rob Gronkowski, who likes to star in bad movies? Or Carson Wentz, who seems to really enjoy hunting?) If that’s the case, then it says more about the NFL than it does Kaepernick.
Breer has more half-formed thoughts to trip over:
I’ve chronicled here what my reporting has told me. This starts with the erosion of Kaepernick’s playing value, then trickles elsewhere. Bottom line, he’s not seen as a starter, and so teams aren’t making scheme or off-field accommodations for him. That—which is far from a black-balling—has been hard for him to overcome.
No one makes a list of the best 64 or 96 players at any position and just hands out jobs. It doesn’t work that way. Back-half-of-the-roster jobs usually come down to fit.
But Kaepernick also has made it harder on himself, because we’re left to wonder why he keeps doing things unrelated or unnecessary to the movement he’s supporting that hinder his ability to find work. We’re left to wonder why there hasn’t been more aggression from his people in finding him a job. We’re left to wonder, as teams are, if he really wants to play.
So, the league-wide refusal to sign Kaepernick is at least partially due to his political beliefs, but that’s not a form of blackballing, but also, he’s probably not good enough to get a job anyway, but also also, if he would just come out and promise to focus on football and not political causes from now on teams around the league might stop ... doing whatever it is that is not blackballing that they are doing to him.
Breer’s column has led us to a truly stunning revelation: Colin Kaepernick is in fact blackballing himself.