As the National Football League winds its way to the end of the first quarter of the season, it becomes more apparent to me game by game, injury by injury, that Colin Kaepernick may never again get the opportunity to quarterback a team.
In the annals of social justice, that is clearly a shame.
This season has seen a seemingly unprecedented rash of starting quarterback injuries across the league. Age, playing style, bad luck, and ineptitude has caught up with many a pivot. In week three, we saw week one actual and projected starters such as Brees, Foles, Fitzpatrick, Newton, Roethlisberger, Darnold, Manning, and Luck, all on the sidelines. Some for the season, one potentially forever.
In their place, we have seen some stunning success stories such as Minshew for the Jags, Jones for the Giants, Brissett for the Colts, and Bridgewater for the Saints. Yet we have also seen players we have never heard of flounder, and others we know fall flat.
I don’t want to pick on those guys. They are all better athletes than I could ever dream of being. But when you have a former Super Bowl quarterback in his prime being held captive on the sidelines, you can’t tell me that the decision to not sign Kaepernick is skill-based.
This situation is unjust. In twenty or thirty years, there will be a universal consensus that this is the case. But that will be too late for Kaepernick. Every day he gets older, his body less able, his muscle memory more forgetful.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you need a historical reminder, look no further than Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Their infamous 1968 protest at the Mexico Olympics cost them their Olympian status, future earnings, and their dignity. Now, some fifty-one years later, the United States Olympic Committee has reversed its stance and is honouring the pair with entry to their Hall of Fame. The recognition is well deserved, but the record can not be altered. These two black athletes were benched in their prime.
Sound familiar? Can we really still be in the same place we were a half-century ago?
The situation leaves me feeling personally and professionally conflicted. I love football. I love the NFL. I had a chat this week with someone who has been boycotting the league since the Kaepernick situation started. And while I am not advocating everyone do this, I am advocating you ask. Your team. Your media outlet. Your leaders.
Doesn’t Kaepernick deserve justice in 2019? Or is he going to have to wait until 2070….