At a fan forum on Sunday, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti answered a question about whether signing Colin Kaepernick would hurt the team’s image. Inherent in the question is the fact that Kaepernick’s play would be good for the team. Yes, the question assumes, Kaepernick is the best option to fill a gaping hole at QB, but *wrings hands* what about the brand?
The correct answer, of course, is there’s nothing better for a team’s brand than winning, and with starting quarterback Joe Flacco sidelined with a back injury; backup quarterback Ryan Mallett generously dishing out interceptions in practice; and a rotating cast of nobodies that includes some guy who most recently played Arena League Football, peeing their pants in the wings, the Ravens would be better with Kaepernick.
The list of quarterbacks who are shittier than Colin Kaepernick and have been given jobs or, at the very least, opportunities, is as embarrassing as it is long, and it now includes the AFL guy David Olson (who the Ravens cut days after signing him) and some other schmuck they signed in his place named Josh Woodrum, who most recently played competitive football in college at Liberty University.
So, back to that question about the brand. Here are Bisciotti’s full, careful, but somehow still un-self aware remarks, with some annotations:
“We are very sensitive to it and we’re certainly, it’s been discussed between Dick and Ozzie and John and we’ve talked to all to a lot of our current players and a lot of our former players. I was speaking to Ray Lewis this morning, I know Ozzie had a long conversation with Ben Watson. I wouldn’t divulge people’s opinions but I’d think you’d be kind of shocked at some people that are against it and some people who are for it. It’s not racial lines, it’s not existing players versus former players. I care about the fan base but I have to absorb the opinions of the layers that have been there.”
Invoking and consulting Ray Lewis? Does that still make fans swoon? More important, though, was Bisciotti’s remark about the fan base, which would read more accurately if “fan base” was replaced with “ticket and merchandise buyers.” Those two don’t necessarily align, and Bisciotti knows who he has to appease.
“Colin’s made some assurance I think through his intermediaries that there would be no protesting, that he would be standing for the pledge of allegiance [sic], so to quantify hurting the brand, I know that we’re going to upset some people, and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did. Non-violent protesting is something that we have all embraced. I don’t like the way he did it. Personally, I kind of liked it a lot when he went from sitting to kneeling. I don’t know, I’m Catholic, we spend a lot of time kneeling. So you know when I saw him develop last year and he went from sitting to kneeling next to his teammates—I liked that—I just thought if it’s still a silent protest, I just don’t think the level of disrespect as is strong that way.”
Here Bisciotti does that thing where he takes every possible position in the span of 30 seconds: Colin promised no more protests, even though that type of protest is good, though I didn’t personally like it, until I did, joke about Catholics, the end. It’s vapid, but if you’re Bisciotti, staking out several positions on a potential future quarterback’s most polarizing stance probably isn’t a bad move.
“But we do want to win games and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help up do that. We’re monitoring Joe, we’ve talked to Joe about it, we’re monitoring Mallett, we’re keeping our door open, we talked about RG3, bringing him in for a work out. So all I would ask is to just talk to your neighbors and your friends and your co-workers, because I think you’ll just get the same sense that I got, [which] is that every time I hear something negative, I hear something positive and sometimes it shocks me who it’s coming from. So I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what’s best for our fans.
Again, what’s best for the team is to win. And Ryan Mallett suuuuucks. What about the fans? As the Baltimore Sun wrote in an editorial today, Kaepernick’s activism in Baltimore, a city whose police officers have famously enacted the exact brutality that Kaepernick has protested, would be a boon to the community. And don’t NFL teams claim they like their stars to be involved in the community?
“Your opinions matter to us, and we couldn’t get a consensus in [this room] either so every time there’s a sensitive subject, we know—when I fired Billick nine years ago, it sounded like 90 percent of the people in Baltimore wanted me to fire him until I fired him and then I found out 80 percent thought I was an idiot. So you gotta be careful about the vocal minority, they have a tendency to sound like a bigger group than they are. So we’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re still, as Ozzie said, scrimmaging it, and trying to figure out what’s the right tact, so pray for us.”
It’s refreshing that Bisciotti isn’t pretending there are simply better options out there—he’s the first executive to admit what everyone already knows, that the soft blackball of Kaepernick has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with political views. So if the Ravens don’t sign him, at least they won’t be hiding the reason why. That’s a step in the right direction.
The next step would be signing Kaepernick. He likely won’t start every game, or even any game, but he’d surely give the Ravens a better chance to compete than any of the jamokes currently lurking on the sideline. And even if Ravens fans from Dundalk or Sykesville or Hagerstown (hi, friends) pitch a fit over signing him, they’ll come around shortly. Remember that no one actually boycotted the NFL because of Kaepernick last year, and that these fans’ devotion to wearing purple camouflage is stronger than any other principle. After all, it’s about winning, right?