Colin Kaepernick’s Unemployment Getting Harder to Stomach

When Colin Kaepernick was still a free agent in May it was already stunning. Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, and Nick Foles among other non-Super Bowl caliber QBs had been signed, but not a guy who had actually sniffed the Lombardi Trophy. The guy that a year early sat in John Elway’s house because he was a distinct possibility to take the torch from Peyton Manning. Dissenters tossed out the system quarterback argument, which is apt when comparing apples but not talent ceilings.

Then the season came and my kid’s first-grade teacher, a Starbucks barista, Rex Grossman’s twin and an actual armchair quarterback all had NFL jobs while Kaepernick remained unemployed. At that point most enlightened people realized that this was a blacklisting or blackballing or whatever comparable word of choice you would like to insert, probably one NSFW.

Now here we are in October with quarterbacks going down like flies or causing our eyeballs to rot and not one call to Kaepernick. Not one. It’s gross and insulting.

Yesterday I covered the 49ers-Cowboys and watched rookie C.J. Beathard get pummeled in his debut as a starter. Beathard wasn’t ready. He couldn’t read the field and when he did roll out a few times to escape pressure he looked like, well, a poor man’s Colin Kaepernick. And he was still an upgrade from Hoyer.

The 49ers are among a growing number of teams that if the all were right in the NFL would be bidding for Kaepernick’s services. Count Arizona, Indy, Cleveland, Denver and the New York Jets and possibly Green Bay in that group. There will surely be more additions next week. But these teams would rather be rooted in their own misery than call the best remaining free agent by a stratosphere.

Some people hate the word blackballing as it insinuates collusion. While there may not be a smoking gun in the form of an email among owners, the fact that none of these teams have even picked up a phone to even have a conversation with Kaepernick is unconscionable. The only team that has shown interest was Seattle and their excuse for not signing him – Pete Carroll calling him a “starter in this league” – illustrates the audacity of his unemployment. By the way, Kaepernick’s collusion case hardly ends his career as many have suggested. Any of these woeful teams sign him and the case is thrown out. Simple as that. The threat of legality is not why he deserves a job, of course. His potential upside is clearly higher than so much of the crap that takes the field. While the NFL has a number of competing interests, Vince Lombardi was right about that whole “winning is everything” theory.

As someone who covers this league and happens to admire gutsy, self-aware people oozing with talent who donate a million dollars to underserved communities, the Kaepernick blackballing has been difficult to compartmentalize. We all have stages and recently I had come to grips with Kaepernick’s career being effectively over. Not because I had truly accepted it but because seething isn’t healthy. At a school gathering a couple weeks a lovely mom who discovered my line of work politely asked my opinion about Kaepernick. When I could see the steam exiting my nostrils, I knew I had to tone it down. The easiest, most honest way to come to grips with the Kaepernick saga is to realize that he no longer needs the NFL to make a significant impact on society. His legend only grows stronger without it.

But as quarterback play regresses on a weekly basis, the reality of a league that has suppressed Kaepernick while laying down a red carpet for so many domestic violence abusers is overwhelmingly hard to stomach. He wants to play. He’s in shape. He should be on an NFL football field.

There is hope that the league will get involved in the causes that Kaepernick and his brethren have been protesting all along, police brutality and lack of resources for the incarcerated, among them. But the twisted morality that has kept him unemployed will stain the league, probably forever. It also makes watching football a lot less joyous.