By Lenn Robbins The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Let’s get this out of the way: Colin Kaepernick endured a terrible injustice, pure and simple.
Having led the San Francisco 49ers to the 2013 NFC Championship game, Kaepernick was out of football following the 2016 season because he had the temerity to protest the systematic oppression of people of color.
He would be a hero in today’s NFL. By the end of the 2016 season, he was a pariah.
Now, from all corners comes statements supporting Kaepernick’s return to the NFL.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who would make for an excellent wind sock, said, “I welcome that, support a club making that decision, and encourage them to do that.”
The publicity hound, wayward accountant and civil rights activist (correct order) known as Al Sharpton said, “Give Colin Kaepernick a job back.”
As if preparing for an NFL season in the age of coronavirus isn’t enough to make a GM batty, now the 32 team architects have to consider bringing in a 32-year-old quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017.
They have to evaluate the impact of adding Kaepernick, and the horde of media that will follow. Does Kaepernick get his own interview tent? Where and how do they manage protesters? Extra security, anyone?
A GM has one goal, and only one goal: Put together a roster that has the best chance of winning. Period.
If a punter from Australia can drop a ball inside the 10 on a consistent basis, “G’Day Mate!” If a nose tackle from American Samoa is a run stopper supreme, “Talofa!” If a quarterback can flummox a defense with his arm and legs, “Sign Him!”
A GM’s role is not to assuage a league’s conscience or put up points on the PR scoreboard. This is best understood in the locker room where players put their trust in each other to compete against the elite in their sport.
If Kaepernick can help an NFL team succeed in 2020, by all means, get a jersey on his back. It could be thrilling to watch one of just six players in league history to have thrown three touchdown passes and rushed for 100 yards in a game.
But Kaepernick has a lot of questions to answers. He had surgery on his thumb, knee and shoulder after the 2016 season. David Fales has completed more passes in the last three seasons than Kaepernick.
Here’s where Kaepernick might have a wonderful role in and out of football. CNN recently hired Saints defensive back and Players Coalition cofounder Malcolm Jenkins as a paid contributor to help better educate the nation on the horrifically fractured relationship between people of color and people in authority.
Few have the credentials and insight that Jenkins possesses on this topic. Kaepernick could be one.
He co-founded the “Know Your Rights Camp,” and has been honored with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and Harvard’s W.E.B. De Bois Medal. His kneeling helped the “Black Lives Matter,” movement gain traction.
This is not to offer Kaepernick a consolation prize, nor is it band aid for the injustice he has endured. Kaepernick has been living the struggle his entire life. He was born to an African-American father and a white mother but raised by the white parents who adopted him. Talk about the road less traveled.
Kaepernick may or might not be able to help an NFL team on the field. He might be able to do a whole lot more off it.