Ken ReedAll of a sudden, the National Football League tells us it’s seen the light. The league’s leaders tell us their draconian reaction to players kneeling during the U.S. national anthem in protest of police brutality and social injustice was all wrong. That they’re very sorry.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even appears to be trying to reinvent himself as a progressive thinker.

It’s all wonderful but until an NFL team signs Colin Kaepernick, it’s nothing but a lot of nice words.

A few NFL teams have recently mentioned that they’ve thought about signing Kaepernick, as if to say, “Hey, we’re not one of those far-right Make America Great Again franchises that hate Kaepernick and anyone else who thinks like him.”

Here’s the sad irony: Kaepernick was blackballed from the NFL for saying things that corporations around the United States – including the NFL – are falling all over themselves to say in their Black Lives Matter statements the last couple weeks.


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The NFL is at least talking about Kaepernick these days – until recently, those associated with the league were reluctant to even mention his name. A couple of franchises have even said they wouldn’t be opposed to signing him. Yet nobody has actually done it.

The Seattle Seahawks invited Kaepernick to work out in the spring of 2017 but passed on signing him.

“I regret that we weren’t the one way back when that just did it just to do it, even though I thought that it wasn’t the right fit necessarily for us at the time,” said a stumbling Seahawks coach Pete Carroll when asked about Kaepernick. “The reason it wasn’t the right fit is because I held him in such a high regard I didn’t see him as a backup quarterback and I didn’t want to put him in that situation with Russ (Wilson). … We’re kind of set up right now, so football-wise, it doesn’t seem to fit us, like I said.”

Carroll is thrilled with his backup quarterback, Geno Smith, a high draft pick who’s been nothing but a journeyman backup in the league.

The Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn now says NFL teams “would be crazy” not to add Kaepernick.

“I haven’t spoken with Colin, not sure where he’s at as far as in his career, what he wants to do,” Lynn said. “But Colin definitely fits the style of quarterback for the system that we’re going to be running. I’m very confident and happy with the three quarterbacks that I have, but you can never have too many people waiting on the runway.”

The Chargers parted ways with their longtime starting quarterback, Philip Rivers, in the off-season. The quarterbacks on their roster are Tyrod Taylor, who Buffalo got rid of, somebody named Easton Stick and rookie Justin Herbert. Certainly no room for a Super Bowl quarterback on that roster.

Los Angeles Raiders’ owner Mark Davis said he’s open to signing Kaepernick.

“Since 2017, when he became a free agent, I’ve told the coaches and general managers that if they want to hire Colin Kaepernick, they have my blessing,” Davis said.

Apparently, the Raiders’ coaches are happy with Derek Carr, who has struggled mightily for a couple years, Marcus Mariota, a complete bust with the Tennessee Titans, and journeyman Nathan Peterman, who’s never done a thing in the NFL at quarterback.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick who lost his job due to his silent, peaceful protest, has donated $1 million to community causes and charitable endeavours since his banishment from the NFL, and helped raise millions more.

“I’m so proud of him,” said former Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, Kaepernick’s teammate and fraternity brother at the University of Nevada. “If people look at the real issue, and look at what he’s doing in the community – the money he’s donating, the time he’s donating, the camps he’s putting on – they’d be like: “You know what? This dude’s really a standup guy.”

How can a league give multiple chances to a thug like Richie Incognito and not sign someone like Kaepernick?

Incognito has a long record of bad behaviour and run-ins with the law. He was a leader in a bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins in 2013. He was arrested after threatening to shoot the employees at a funeral home. Not long after that incident, the Raiders gave him a contract.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick, who doesn’t have a criminal record, or a record of drug or domestic abuse, remains blackballed from the league for protesting racism, social injustice and police brutality toward minorities in the U.S.

Kaepernick said at the time he had nothing against military members or veterans, and in fact, said he was grateful for their service, including the military service of several family members.

He said he was protesting because – in his view – the United States wasn’t living up to its values and ideals, such as “justice for all.” As we’ve seen many times since his kneeling protests began, it’s certainly hard to argue with that.

Goodell said last week that he supports and encourages teams to sign Kaepernick. Yet nobody does.

As your mom told you, actions speak louder than words.

Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.

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