7 Thoughts About Colin Kaepernick
I had no intention of writing about Colin Kaepernick. But after Nike signed the controversial activist-protester to a new advertising campaign, it seems that everyone now has an opinion of the ex-NFL quarterback, and Nike. Including me.
Let’s do it.
 Is Kaepernick good enough to be a starting NFL quarterback? I’ve never been a fan of Kaepernick as an NFL starting quarterback. Often indecisive, an average passer, and way too prone to scrambling, Kaepernick is not the ideal quarterback to build an offense around. His early career success with the 49ers came largely as the result of being surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast — great wide receivers, an excellent power running game, and one of the league’s best offensive lines. His play also deteriorated over five successive seasons. I’m not a fan of Kaepernick as a starter.
 Is Kaepernick good enough to be a backup quarterback? There’s no question Kaepernick deserves to be playing somewhere as a backup quarterback. He’s not a top 32 NFL QB, but he certainly falls within the next group — somewhere in the 33-64 range (which would qualify him as a legitimate backup). I’ll skip posting irrefutable stats which prove Kaepernick is more than competent enough to play second string. But trust me, this is a no-brainer. If dregs like Trevor Siemian, Colt McCoy, A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yates, Kellen Moore, Ryan Mallett, Kevin Hogan, and Tom Savage all have contracts as backup QBs, then Kaepernick (who is way better than any of them) deserves to be wearing a pro uniform. Oh, and don’t even get me started on third-stringers. Most teams carry three QBs on the roster Even those who vehemently dislike Kaepernick and disagree with his views must admit he’s far better than any clipboard-holding, thumb-sucking third-stringer.
 So, why isn’t Kaepernick playing in the NFL right now? No doubt, Kaepernick is a lightning rod of media and public controversy. But then, so too were numerous players over the years who have been involved in shootings, domestic abuse cases, and even alleged rapes. No one called Ben Roethlisberger a “distraction” when he was fending off rape charges several years ago while taking every snap for the Steelers. Dallas owner Jerry Jones saw no problem signing Pacman Jones, despite his repeated violations of the league’s conduct policy. These are but two of many examples. Apparently, being an activist for racial justice is more of a “distraction” than being involved in nightclub shootings and beating girlfriends. Please people, spare me the “distraction” bullshit.
 Kaepernick made some really dumb decisions, early on. Blame it on his youth, inexperience, or perhaps just a glaring lack of understanding about media and public relations when trying to win support for any political issue, but Kaepernick’s missteps early in his protest did significant harm to a just cause. For instance, Kaepernick showed up for a 49ers team practice wearing socks which depicted the police as pigs. What could he possibly have been thinking? What mind-boggling stupidity. Next, he admitted he didn’t bother to vote in the previous election. What an unconscionable admission for someone advocating public activism. Later, Kaepernick was asked by a reporter for his opinion on Fidel Castro and Cuba. That’s an incendiary topic in much of America, best addressed by serious activists familiar with complexities of history and international politics. Sure, I’d be happy to defend some aspects of Castro’s regime, but even for me as someone who has studied Cuba for decades, it would be quite a challenge. Kaepernick’s fumbling comments about hot topics like Castro did not help to gain any followers and probably turned away some undecideds who would otherwise be sympathetic. Here’s a golden rule: If you don’t know what you’re talking about — shut up. Postscript: To his credit, Kaepernick appears to have gotten much better in his statements since the rocky early start.
 Kaepernick has been screwed over by the NFL. Kaepernick is suing the NFL, charging the league with collusion to keep him out of the game. However, unless evidence surfaces showing the league or a cabal of owners actively conspired to keep the former quarterback from signing with a team, he’s going to have a tough time proving a conspiracy. Clearly, Kaepernick has suffered financial damages, including a significant loss of earnings. Yet each NFL team has apparently made a series of independent decisions over the course of the last two seasons that Kaepernick wasn’t worth the downside risks. Perhaps some teams feared protests and a loss of revenues. Was this a just decision by owners? No. What this an illegal decision? Probably not. Of course, if documents do surface or testimony shows any team was dissuaded by other owners or the league from signing Kaepernick, he should not only win his lawsuit but also be awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Moreover, any owner who pressured another not to sign Kaepernick should be forced to sell his team.
 Some team will likely sign Kaepernick — eventually. The two most likely teams to employ Kaepernick are probably the Los Angeles Chargers and/or Oakland Raiders. First, neither teams’ fan bases would object. Both franchises are in the midst of transitioning to new locales, so the timing for something that could be controversial is ideal. Perhaps most important, both the Chargers and Raiders could use Kaepernick. Chargers starter Phillip Rivers is 36-years-old. That might not be as big a concern since some quarterbacks play until 40. However, the Chargers are a competitive team and perhaps could make a deep playoff run this season. Having a capable backup makes sense. Meanwhile, the Raiders have always been a team of outlaws. Raiders’ ownership has forever been rebellious towards the NFL. Now that the Raiders move to Las Vegas has been approved, there’s nothing to stop them from going against the grain. New head coach Jon Gruden has even commented publicly that he’s surprised Kaepernick isn’t playing somewhere. Gruden must look as his current backups — Connor Cook, Josh Johnson, and E.J. Manuel — and realize Kaepernick would be a better insurance policy.
 Featuring Kaepernick in a Nike ad totally fits the company’s culture and is a wise marketing move. Most big corporations are gutless. They shy away from controversies. They avoid topics that could be divisive. They don’t want to be associated with celebrities who might alienate consumers. Accordingly, we’re bored out of our skulls with nauseatingly repetitive ad campaigns with talking frogs and monster trucks. Meanwhile, Nike has always done things quite a bit differently. Their sales demographic is not older conservative people with minds stuck in the past. Nike is a global brand. Nike is a vibrant company of youth and energy. Nike isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Using Kaepernick in an advertising campaign totally fits the Nike culture. It will also likely generate some added sales. Perhaps most important, someday history will judge this moment in the way it deserves to be revered. Just as Muhammed Ali was toxic to advertisers for many years for his brash activism and alleged anti-patriotism, we now look upon his imagery as something courageous we should all aspire to. In a country where the activist owners of Papa Johns (which makes horrible pizza) and Carl’s Jr. (which makes horrible hamburgers) have been very public with their political views in defense of conservative causes, Nike (which makes outstanding shoes and other products) should be very proud of this decision which reflects a much broader point of view.
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