It should come as no surprise that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality has stirred up a lot of outrage. But we recently got an idea just how deep the outrage runs. Apparently a number of NFL executives aren’t willing to even consider putting Kaepernick on their rosters–even after giving second chances to people who have engaged in behavior several times worse than anything Kaepernick has ever done.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report recently chatted with seven NFL front office executives, all of whom expressed their disgust with Kaepernick’s behavior in unusually strong terms. One declared that he didn’t want Kaepernick “anywhere near my team” because “he’s a traitor.” Apparently a number of veterans who spoke up for Kaepernick would disagree.
Another executive put it more succinctly:
“He has no respect for our country. F**k that guy.”
Another vowed that if his owner wanted to sign Kaepernick, he would resign rather than do so. Still another claimed that he has “never seen a guy so hated by front office guys” in his career. According to Freeman, these executives believe anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of front-office staff feel as they do–that Kaepernick is un-American, and will likely never play in the NFL again. Freeman believes, however, that if anyone should be called out for un-American behavior, it’s the executives.
“I find it ironic that citizens who live in a country whose existence is based on dissent criticize someone who expresses dissent.”
He went further in an interview with KCBS in San Francisco on Monday. Listen here.
Freeman told KCBS’ Steve Bitker that if other 49ers join Kaepernick in sitting for the anthem, it would signal “an even larger sea change” for how athletes express themselves. He thinks that if Kaepernick’s protest sparks “a larger conversation” in the NFL, it can only be a good thing.
Raw Story’s Brad Reed thinks that the executives’ virulent opposition to Kaepernick is particularly hypocritical when you consider that dozens of players have been given second chances despite engaging in outrageously criminal behavior. For instance, Greg Hardy was dumped from my Carolina Panthers for beating his girlfriend into a pulp. The Dallas Cowboys snapped him up even they almost certainly saw the pictures of what Hardy had done to that poor woman.
To their credit, the Cowboys didn’t resign him after he proved more trouble than he was worth on the field. His number has yet to be called by another NFL team. But there is no defensible reason for him to have even gotten a second chance after what he did to his girlfriend.
Another example that immediately sticks out is Richie Incognito. You may know him from his time on the Miami Dolphins, when he was the ringleader in a bullying campaign that targeted teammate Jonathan Martin, another player, and a team staffer. However, what you may not know is that he has a history of violent behavior on and off the field dating to his collegiate days at Nebraska. Despite this, after sitting out the entire 2014 season, he was snapped up by the Buffalo Bills.
For their part, the 49ers don’t have a problem with Kaepernick’s protest. Indeed, despite rumors that Kaepernick is on the way out solely for football reasons, he’s actually starting the 49ers’ final preseason game on Thursday night. While Blaine Gabbert is rumored to be the frontrunner for the starting job, head coach Chip Kelly wants to give Kaepernick a chance to prove himself on the field before making a final decision. This is a brave and gutsy move from any perspective.
There is something fundamentally wrong when players who engage in violent and criminal behavior easily find their way back on the field, but a player who takes part in a PEACEFUL protest faces being blackballed.