Colin Kaepernick conducted a workout for seven teams on November 16th at Charles R. Drew high School in Riverdale, Georgia. But that wasn’t supposed to be how it went down.
In a piece by ESPN’s Howard Bryant, we get the details of how the initial workout came to be. And how distrust, by both the NFL and Kap and his representatives, doomed any hopes of reconciliation from the start.
Two teams were apparently interested in signing Kap, but they wanted to some kind of signal from the league that it would be okay to workout the blackballed quarterback.
Coupled with alleged urging from Jay-Z and renowned sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saw an opportunity. An opportunity for an opportunity, according to Bryant’s piece.
“The confluence of events provided an opportunity for Goodell to prove his own stated position that Kaepernick was not being blacklisted for the past two and a half seasons, even though the NFL had settled out of court with Kaepernick when he sued it for collusion, wrote Bryant. “In the weeks following the Oct. 10 statement, the NFL’s football operations team discussed with Goodell the feasibility of reaching out to Kaepernick. Goodell ultimately approved it. ‘Inside and outside,’ an NFL source says, ‘the thought was, ‘Let’s provide him the opportunity.'”
The NFL contacted Kap’s people and told them they would be holding a workout for Kap on November 16t at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Kap and his representatives had two hours to decide and then a memo will be sent to all 32 teams advising them of same and they could send any and all representatives.
The speed and timing of the request seemed strange to Kap and his camp. But he wanted an opportunity to show that he could play.
The NFL believed there was nothing untoward or deceitful about their intentions as, in their minds, they are holding a private workout for a player on their dime to give him what he wants.
A chance to show that he can still play football.
But that’s where the NFL made its mistake and continues to make its mistake with Kap.
Their “this is just about football” position failed to address the elephant in the room. The reason Kap isn’t playing football in the first place.
Kap started protesting during the 2016 preseason by not standing during the playing of the national anthem. When asked why, he responded: “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed.”
On several occasions that season and since, Kap made it clear his protest was about the racial injustice in America, the oppression of people of color, and the sanctioned killing of unarmed Black and Brown people by police.
Everyone in America had, and still has, an opinion about his protest. Whether it’s right or wrong. Whether it’s being done in the right manner, etc.
To say it has been a divisive issue in America is like saying Jeff Bezos has money.
It is the position of Kap’s protests that still has the NFL nervous, for fear of alienating a segment of its fanbase and making a segment of its teams’ owners angry.
Rather than address the issue head on, Goodell and the NFL tried to ignore it.
The NFL didn’t want the two teams that were reportedly interested in signing Kap to work him out at their facilities for fear of a media storm.
So instead they decide to rush a workout, with no media access during the workout and disseminate the film after, to all 32 teams.
But they alerted the media that there would be a workout.
When Kap’s camp pushes back or has any issues with the language in the waiver, or asks questions about who will be in attendance, can they have their own crew film the workout, all concerns are met with resistance.
If you wanted to work together on providing an opportunity, both parties should meet somewhere in the middle.
The NFL’s insistence on doing it their way and not budging on demands and Kaepernick’s camps’ need to have every condition explained, for good reason, made this a no win situation.
“The credibility of the event began showing signs of crumbling, isolating Goodell and placing a spotlight on what was privately around the league being called a failure of leadership,” wrote Bryant.
“Regardless of Goodell’s best intentions, the 32 teams had to be invested for Saturday to work, and so far, they weren’t. This absence of any ceremony — a public acknowledgement that the league, the teams and Kaepernick were willing to put the past behind them and he would again be allowed to survive or fail primarily on his football merits — provided perhaps the biggest red flag of the entire week for Kaepernick’s camp.”
The foundation of any healthy and successful relationship is trust. There are levels to that, but ultimately it must begin there. Neither side trusted the other in this endeavor, so it was doomed from the start.
As of Wednesday (November 27), no teams have expressed interest in signing Kap, after his workout at Drew.
The NFL still hasn’t made it clear to its teams what their position on Kap is, beyond saying “we offered a legitimate workout opportunity.”
A source closely connected to the situation made it very clear in Bryant’s piece.
“To say we’re going to make this about football is one of the dumbest things you can say. It’s not a big deal, it’s the whole deal, because the reason he’s not playing isn’t about football. Everyone knows he can play. It’s the other stuff. You have to deal with the other stuff.”