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The NFL apology for its handling of Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, far too little too late

June 23, 2020

It took nearly three and a half years, the highly publicized murder of George Floyd and a public plea from players for the National Football League to formally acknowledge that they were wrong, they should not be lauded for meeting the bare minimum. 

Colin Kaepernick, former 49ers quarterback, first peacefully protested the systematic oppression and police brutality endured by Black Americans by taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016.

On June 4, a video posted by more than 20 players called out the NFL owners and leaders for their attempts to dissuade players from peacefully protesting during games.

It wasn’t until a day after that, Roger Goodell decided to release an apology statement for their treatment of Kaepernick’s kneeling after pressure had been built by players and the community. 

“We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People. We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter,” Goodell said.

Nowhere in their apology did the NFL state specifically that they were wrong to empower owners like Jerry Jones to infringe upon players’ constitutionally protected right to protest by threatening their jobs

Most importantly nowhere in their apology did the NFL mention Colin Kaepernick by name. 

Following the 2016 season, Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and became available for the rest of the league to sign a new deal with.

When someone with Kaepernick’s resume does enter free agency, large checks typically follow. 

In 2018, Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings for three years and $84 million even though Kaepernick was statistically more efficient passing, contributed more as a runner and had more team success at the time of his free agency than Cousins, he went unsigned. 

The only explanation was that teams chose not to sign Kaepernick because of  his political stance and not because of his on-field ability.

This is a league that regularly gives individuals with serious legal troubles second opportunities if they have talent, but with Kaepernick no fair opportunities were not presented for years following his separation from the 49ers.

Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against the NFL which resulted in a settlement, for $10 million, far less than he would have been making had he been signed.

The settlement was not a legal admission of wrongdoing, but rather an effort to sweep the whole thing under the rug and silence the attention surrounding Kaepernick.

While the NFL has successfully kept Kaepernick from playing in the NFL for three seasons, they have not silenced the conversation Kaepernick started. 

The impact Keapernick has made by taking a knee during the national anthem is reflected widely during this time as people protest the murder of George Floyd.

Taking a knee has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement and can be seen across the country in protests and on Instagram feeds. 

LeBron James was among many who posted on instagram a picture of now Ex-Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd side by side with Kaepernick protesting with the text  “This… is Why”.

In several Bay Area counties including Napa, Benicia and Santa Cruz, demonstrators, protesters and even police officers have taken a knee to honor the death of George Floyd.

Nate Boyer, East Bay native and former Green Beret who initially questioned Kaepernick type of protest of kneeling rather than sitting during the anthem, was recently interviewed with ABC7 news and spoke about how proud he was of police officers kneeling in solidarity. 

While the NFL has recently encouraged teams to consider signing Kaepernick, the damage has already been done, and $10 million dollars trying to cover it up is not commensurate with the financial losses Kaepernick has amassed as a result of the league essentially barring him from playing.

While some may consider the admission of wrongdoing and guilt a good first step, more needs to be done by the NFL to help make the genuine societal change that Kaepernick was advocating for in the first place. 

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