Ahoy, dear reader, and warmest greetings from the very recent past where I am attempting to process the news of the moment — in a very short statement tweeted by their lawyer Mark Geragos, former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid announced that they have settled their collusion lawsuits against the NFL.
My predominant initial reaction to this news was confusion. The more I consider the issue, though, the more I think I should have seen this coming.
First off, I completely believe that Colin Kaepernick was blackballed from the National Football League as a retaliation for kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of violence against people of color. I vociferously support his constitutional right to protest, and (less importantly) believe his cause is righteous.
Perhaps more important than any of this, I have always believed that he believes in his cause. There has never been any reason to doubt his sincerity. He has quite deliberately put his money where his mouth could have been, and has by all accounts doggedly pursued both his passion for social justice and an NFL career.
What separates me from a lot of people who believe these things is that if I was an NFL general manager, I would not, generally speaking, have any interest in signing Colin Kaepernick. This is about what I saw on the field — an inaccurate quarterback whose best asset was his ability to run, and who failed to progress in terms of reading defenses and processing his options as a passer.
Those qualities are concerning in a 28 or 29-year-old quarterback with 50 to 60 career starts and disqualifying for a 31-year-old who hasn’t taken live snaps in three years. Simply put, I have trouble envisioning a scenario where Kap brings a team closer to a championship — perhaps with a dominant defense, a lot of skill position talent and a starting QB lost to injury, I suppose.
I have no interest in tearing a reasonably successful player down, but Kaepernick’s on-field struggles and long layoff seem critically important in terms of what happens now. Which brings us to Friday’s announcement, a statement short enough to print in its entirety:
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
Ironically, this brief blurb feels like a long-winded version of a shorter sentiment: “Colin and Eric accepted a large financial payout from the NFL in exchange for ongoing secrecy regarding any evidence they may have presented at trial.” But the idea that two men whose sincerity I have never doubted would take a financial payout for their silence feels incongruous.
There are a couple obvious ways to go here: (1) It is certainly possible that Kaepernick, Reid and their legal team had no such evidence and successfully bluffed the NFL into a big settlement offer, in which case accepting that offer makes perfect sense; and (2) There’s probably a dollar amount at which virtually anyone would accept a deal (though judging from Reid’s new contract and Kaepernick’s charitable giving I would imagine they’re both doing fine financially).
The first option would have required at least the existence of the evidence and a hell of a poker face. With option two, it seems odd that the league would suddenly decide (after more than a year of professing innocence) to make the kind of Godfather offer that would settle the case if Kap and Reid actually had evidence that gave them any chance to win at trial.
It seems obvious that the NFL’s goal was to avoid that trial. They’ve been utterly unbothered by the ultimately rather small ongoing PR drama; combined with the apparent NDA, that suggests the players are in possession of something that the league would prefer to keep private.
If that’s true they might have won the lawsuit, or at the very least publicly embarrassed a league by which they clearly feel wronged. Why, then, accept whatever money was offered?
It’s certainly possible the answer is that Colin was never as sincere as I imagined, or at some point lost his will to battle the NFL when he saw that they would more or less continue with business (and success) as usual while he toiled in relative obscurity and silence. Call me naive if you like, I still don’t believe that’s the case.
If Colin Kaepernick’s two primary goals have always been bringing awareness to the tragic and ongoing problem of law enforcement violence against people of color and playing football in the NFL, perhaps he simply concluded that both of those goals are better served by abandoning the cause of publicly proving the league’s disingenuous and collusive hiring practices. It’s 2019, after all — everything comes out eventually and chances are we will ultimately see whatever evidence the owners are hoping to hide.
Kaepernick apparently can’t talk about the value of his settlement or the terms of the agreement, but he can certainly take his former employers’ money and put it to use in much the same way he has a sizable chunk of the money he earned while playing. He continues to raise money for and donate money to a variety of charitable organizations (all tracked on his website).
As far as a comeback goes, I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I very much doubt Colin Kaepernick will ever take another NFL snap — even owners or GMs who might have considered him three years ago likely would not do so now given the aforementioned issues. That said, if an opportunity to play again was part of this secretive settlement, it would certainly explain Kaepernick’s willingness to sign.
Even if he never takes the field again, Colin seems to have a bright future as an activist, philanthropist and fundraiser, and probably as a public speaker if he should so choose. I have no doubt that history will remember him in a positive light for his contributions to social progress and see the NFL’s treatment of him as regressive petulance.
Speaking of history, I just realized that’s exactly where I am right now, writing on a Friday afternoon … You’re in the future — why don’t you tell me what in the world happened here?!
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 5a-6a every weekday morning. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.