If you're an NFL fan you can skip ahead a bit. If not, grab a drink and gird yourself: I have to explain a football thing. Without it, the institutionalized racism and "It's OK to be opinionated so long as your opinion is virulently jingoistic and fetishizes the military!" culture won't make sense.

Briefly, at any given moment there are maybe 12 human beings on the planet capable of playing Quarterback in the NFL well enough for a team to reach and win the Super Bowl. For reasons you are not interested in, it's the hardest athletic role to fill in team sports. This explains, if you were curious, why the same few famous names end up in the Super Bowl year after year: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers. Because their teams are lucky enough to have one of the small number of humans who is good enough to get them to the championship. There are probably 10-15 more "OK" quarterbacks who can lead their teams to the playoffs, but only a few truly elite ones.

I mention this to preface the point that anyone – ANY ONE – with the merest glimmer of talent at the QB position is given dozens of opportunities to play until he has failed so many times that there is absolutely, conclusively no doubt that he doesn't Have It. The shortage of QB talent is so acute that even a hint that a guy can play is worth a look. Played well in college? Bring him in! Had a couple good games as someone's backup? Bring him in! Led the Biloxi Deer Ticks to the Mississippi Semi-Pro Football Conference title last year? Bring him in!

A football fan friend and have a running joke about a forgettable player named Jason Campbell. Because he started for a team once (and was not good), he attracted the label "Former starter" or "capable of starting" and parlayed it into a long career with many teams. He was never good, yet team after team would bring "former starter Jason Campbell" in and give him his 37th chance to prove himself a good QB. He wasn't.

OK. Now. In context, Colin Kaepernick took a team to the Super Bowl. Not "showed potential to." Not "Played in the Super Bowl of the Norwegian Summer League." The actual Super Bowl. And. AND. His team came within one iffy referee's call of winning that game. His game has shortcomings and he has played less spectacularly since that Super Bowl – again, not worth going into – but he took a team to within one play of a championship in a league that will give literally any bum whose arm hasn't fallen off multiple shots. Now, he can't find a job and more than a few of the bolder voices in the sport are starting to wonder.

Is his style on the field unconventional? Yes. But you cannot and will not convince me that in a league where winning is everything, coaches get fired if they don't produce, and teams spend billions shooting for Super Bowls that no team would look at his body of work and think "Let's have him in for a look-see. You remember him, he's that fella who almost won the Super Bowl that one time."

You will not convince me – football reference joke ahead – that a league in which Josh McCown is on his TENTH team and is being handed a starting job yet again despite never having done so much as sniff a winning record has no use for Colin Kaepernick on the field. Teams routinely sign guys proven beyond any shred of a doubt to be mediocre or worse with no room for improvement. No league in which a coach can convince himself that he's going to ride Mike Fucking Glennon to a championship is one in which a coach cannot look at Kaepernick and think, "I'll recapture the magic!"

So when players grumble that Kaepernick has been blackballed for his outspokenness, what they are really saying is, "We have a guy playing QB who can't hit his ass with both hands in his back pockets, and you're telling me Colin can't find a job?" They know. They know better than anyone how rare a QB is, how terrible some of the QBs in the league are, and how many times a player with the tiniest shred of talent is given second, third, eighth, tenth chances to start. But when a guy kneels for the National Anthem or says "Hey it might be nice if cops stopped shooting black people," suddenly his phone won't ring.

It's not hard to figure out. All the excuses in the world can be made and have been made. The NFL has no policy against players voicing their opinions when those opinions are similar to the content of a Fox News comment section. That's just fine. Anything spicier than that, though, and the league can't handle it.

There's no conspiracy. It's a case of the biases being ingrained in the system so thoroughly that nobody even needs to tell teams not to sign him. They wouldn't dream of it.


  • While I certainly think that Kaepernick is getting a raw deal, the fact that football is one of the few true meritocratic occupations left in the country also makes me hope that its the opposite.

    Kaepernick had a few good years when coached by one of the leagues 2-3 quarterback guru coaches. When he was asked to play for a coach who was not a great schemer and didn't have the quarterback whisperer magic he was very average.

    I live in the Kansas City area and I think that Alex Smith could be in much the same situation when he is inevitably released next year. Alex Smith playing for Andy Reid or Jim Harbaugh looks really good. Alex Smith playing for a variety of other coaches looks really average.

    I guess that will be the test. Kaepernick and Smith are basically the same guy from a football standpoint. However, they have one key difference and its the only that matters for your point.

  • Sentient AI from the Future says:

    I haven't thought about USian football in a long time, but I wonder how much pressure the players' union is or isn't bringing to bear here. I remember a has-been names Kyle Mackey to filled in for Dan Fucking Marino and although I wasn't keen enough about stats at the time, I remember talk that he was good enough that they might would keep him on after the 87 players strike was over. Never heard another word about him.

  • @Really?–

    I think you're missing the point entirely; Ed's saying that the fact is football is NOT meritocratic, as evidenced by Kaepernick being clearly superior talent-wise but unable to find a job because of his being black and speaking up about racism. That is exactly the opposite of "meritocracy".

  • HoosierPoli says:


    When your team starts to be mediocre and poorly run the shine wears off quickly. Andrew Luck is still superhuman but I didn't watch a single game last year.

  • Cassius Clay.

    Best BOXER on the planet (at least in the oft maligned world of–and seriously limited universe of U.S. dominated professional boxing).

    Before his Vietnam War resistance and his name change, Muhammad Ali was viewed as a bragging troublemaker. After the Vietnam comments and the draft resistance, he was a pariah.

    CK is miles better than a lot of guys out there and its solely due to his stance on racial issues that he's being treated this way.

  • Bessemer Mucho says:

    In at least one case (Seattle Ernes), I think they passed on Copernicus because it was going to hurt the feelings of the reigning QB, whose name appeared in the 2nd paragraph of the OP. There might also be money issues; sometimes the agent is the bad guy. But yes, it is mostly because he didn't stand up for the National Anthem.

  • Major, you win comments today as far as I am concerned. Well done, sir.
    Ed, good thing to bring up. thanks.

  • I know players are fairly well compensated (not enough for the damage done to them, but…), but they are owned by white, conservative team owners.

  • Jonny Scrum-half says:

    Kaepernick certainly appears to be getting a raw deal. From a different perspective, I always thought that Tim Tebow wasn't given a fair shake, either.

  • I think there might be an element of Terrell Owens as well, by which I mean teams may be afraid he'll be a polarizing figure and don't want to hurt team unity. It's still suspicious, shall we say, that one of the bottom- tier teams hasn't said, F it, let's roll the dice with CK.

    Also, when Football is such a recruiting tool that paratroopers will land on playing fields, the NFL mayyyy be in the pocket of the DOD. I will go out on this limb.

  • @Jonny Scrum-half: I love Tebow as much as my screen name would suggest, but his collegiate fame and flamboyant religiosity brought him several undeserved opportunities to play at the NFL level, for which he was wholly unsuited. He simply is not among the 25-30 humans on Earth possessing the skill set required of even a mediocre NFL QB.

  • Colin won the Len Eshmont award for the niners last year. "Kaepernick was the recipient of the Len Eshmont Award, given to the 49er who "best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team." The award, which was established after Eshmont died in 1957, is considered the most prestigious honor the players vote on."

  • It's even more fishy because he doesn't need to be one of the top 32, he won't be a starter, but a backup clipboard holder. Meaning somewhere in the top 64-80, since some teams keep more than just one backup. And even after that, not to have him in camp, just to see what he can do. And maybe cut him before the season starts, which would put him in the top 150ish. CK has said he's going to stand for the anthem so no distraction there. But apparently whatever publicity he received is considered a greater crime than the myriad of DUIs, PED abusers, wife beaters and other assorted criminal types that they regularly employ and see as 'worth the distraction'.

  • coloradoblue says:

    As far as Tebow not getting a fair chance? After his Broncos and Jets "career" he got two more chances, with the Patriots and Eagles and never threw one single misguided pass. His completion percentage was 47.9 and his QB rating was 75.3. I watched every pass he threw for the Broncos and trust me, way too many of them went over the receiver's head or was at their feet. And he didn't lead the Broncos to the playoffs, the Defense did when they markedly improved over the last 8 games.

    Even Bill Belichick couldn't do anything with him. Says it all.

  • He's totally being (pardon the pun) black-balled. The NFL may well be the most fascist organization in our country and I say this as a lifelong, diehard Patriots fan.

    Trying to remember, what became of the NBA player a few years back who sat during the anthem due to his Muslim beliefs?

  • proverbialleadballoon says:

    @Safety Man!: the Pentagon literally pays NFL to "salute the troops" (join the military, kids! They will clap for you at halftime!).

    No doubt that the reason Kaepernick will no longer be playing in the NFL is his 'controversial' BLM stance. The vitriol he received around the water cooler at my place of business was amazing. The media told people he was a bad bad person, and people ate that up. How dare he think that black men shouldn't be shot during routine traffic stops? He should play football and shut up!

    @Johnny Scrum-half: Not only did Tebow get more opportunities to play in the NHL, despite not being able to play the pro game, he's been given an opportunity to play baseball now, with the Mets. His name recognition sells tickets, in South Carolina? I believe. Better to be an outspoken Christian than an outspoken black man, apparently. (no duh, right?)

  • Exactly, Buckyblue: the NFL has zero problem with criminals and domestic abusers, but God forbid they have anyone on their teams who can think for themselves–and cause their white fans a few uncomfortable thoughts. Never liked football and like it even less now–particularly with the revelation that the Pentagon pays the NFL to salute the fucking troops. FFS.

  • @Jonny Scrum-half

    what @coloradoblue said.
    Not convinced?

    Don't worry though, you can still see him play. Baseball that is. My stupid Mets promoted him to single A. He was batting .222. How does this guy even sniff single A? Ticket sales. You watch, this guy will be called up to the Mets in the last weeks of the season to give some "fans" a thrill. This might do me in as a Mets fan, and that's pretty hard to do.

  • proverbialleadballoon says:

    @Jason: Being a dumb-ass didn't help his case, no. If I remember correctly, he didn't vote, either. Definitely undercut his own credibility. I mean, if you can't tell the difference between the two parties, especially on racial issues, your opinion doesn't mean very much. Then again, I see people saying that both parties are the same on supposedly smart, liberal forums like this one, so /guy shrugging shoulders emoji. Gee, I wonder why we lose, when half of the Left buys into this 'both sides' propaganda?

  • Jim Bouton detailed similar stuff with "Ball Four." You have to be a superstar for people not to care about outspokenness. This is how the average player or coach views someone they admire:

    "He's a great guy. Wouldn't say shit if he had a mouthful."

  • Nobody ever says the two parties are "the same". Just that the democrats are so beholden to the same forces of big money as the Republicans that one can understand a lack of enthusiasm for yet more policies destructive of one's (or the nation's) interests.

  • Football always struck me as of piece with the Vietnam War. Technocrats half a world a way or secure in their bunkers directing the bloody play on an a distant, exotic battle field. (Granted, with football, there was some kind of recognizable goal.) The players were expected to execute the technocratic plan as ordered to produce the desired body count or yardage. There was no room for individual initiative or excellence. The scoring had nothing to do with the individual; it was all about the corporate next quarter plan. Football was a perfect corporate game to be played by a team of organization men. It seemed appropriate that Richard Nixon was such a fan.

    Baseball was about star turns in a rigorous rotation. Basketball was like improv theater or jazz. Soccer was too fast and chaotic for plans. It was about rapid response and forming coalitions for the next move. I never warmed to any of them. What they did on the field seemed completely alien to anything I had ever done or might want to do. Still, one could see how they reflected their eras. Baseball was the rise of the machine age, assembly line versus assembly line. Soccer fit perfectly with political systems led by coalition governments. Football was the American post-war business school model incarnate. Bullfighting was a pageant on the divine right of kings. Pelota was about the will of the gods and played to the death.

    I hadn't really been following this Kaepernick thing, but it doesn't surprise me in the least.

  • "Nobody ever says the two parties are "the same""

    You may not have done so. I can assure you that I have read such sentiments on this blog, sometimes in the exact order "both parties are the same" or something using slightly different words meaning pretty much the same thing.

    I'm not sure if that comment was supposed to be on this thread so, I'll go check the other one.


    It's not JUST politics–racism in there, too.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    Even though I agree that KC's political stances are a factor in him not signing with anyone, there is also a pretty good football reason why no one wants him. His glory days with the 49ers was pretty much the result of him be good in a read-option offense. The offense was a bit new to defenses, and it took a bit for coaches to adjust. That's why Russell Wilson, RGIII, and KC were all the rage for that 1-2 year window.

    But defensive coaches caught up and figured out how to stop the read option. Wilson, being a versatile QB, was able to adjust and play in a regular offense. RGIII can't stay healthy, and in the very small number of minutes he's tried to play in a regular offense, he doesn't look very good at all.

    KC looked even worse when trying to run a non-read-option offense, which was a clear signal to other teams that unless they're going to run it (and they aren't), he's not worth keeping on your roster.

    So keep this in context…..KC was a very specialized QB for a very specialized offense, that is now obsolete.

  • So, CK took a knee during the national anthem, and he did it quietly. Tebow was a gesticulating, genuflecting asshole of the first order who turned every game into a "look how pious I am, look at MMEEEEEE!" sideshow. Tebow gets endless chances to fail, CK not so much.

  • @Demo; you got that right. Also, in areas where FOOOOTBAWWWW is popular, so is over-the-top religious fuckwittery.

  • I only hope that our government could be as smart and efficient as the NFL. We might then have, I don't know, shit we like… Winning seasons, big-buck advertisements, and smiling promoters.

    Except, the NFL is failing.

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