Forget all of the noise and disrespect you heard about Colin Kaepernick last year. He was the biggest winner of 2017.
Why? He didn’t get signed to a NFL team. But, he did get signed. He is the quarterback of the movement to combat the vestiges of America’s Original Sin, racism and police brutality against Black bodies.
For that work, he made the shortlist to be Time’s Person of The Year; named GQ magazine’s Citizen of the Year; received the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award; and signed a $1 million book deal with Random House, simply by calling plays in the huddle or just taking a knee. He also tweeted interest to joining Diddy to purchase the Carolina Panthers.
Kaepernik started the movement in the summer of 2016 by peacefully taking a knee during the National Anthem at NFL games to protest police brutality against Blacks. He became a free agent in March.
“I couldn’t see another ‘hashtag Sandra Bland,’ ‘hashtag Tamir Rice,’ ‘hashtag Walter Scott,’ ‘hashtag Eric Garner,’” – Colin Kaepernick
“I couldn’t see another ‘hashtag Sandra Bland,’ ‘hashtag Tamir Rice,’ ‘hashtag Walter Scott,’ ‘hashtag Eric Garner,’” Kaepernick told reporters at the time. “At what point do we do something about it?”
That “something” he decided to do has generated a swarm of support and undulating blowback from some folks, including sellouts like Mike Vick, and team owners and 45, who want to pretend the repercussions of their ancestor’s actions do not continue to reverberate today. As a result, Kaepernick who earned $16 million in the 2016 as quarterback the San Francisco 49ers, has yet to receive a single offer from any NFL team.
Quaterbacking A Movement
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words,” said philosopher Elbert Hubbard, so Kaepernick has chosen to remain silent about the movement to avoid having his words misconstrued. Instead, he relies on targeted social media commentary.
His actions are a rallying call to raise awareness about systemic racism in an America that refuses to convict rogue cops who gun down Black citizens in cold blood. He started the Colin Kaepernick Foundation that battles oppression through education and activism, pledging to donate $1 million to social causes in 2017.
He has been a warrior for social justice, not just for others, but in his professional life as well. Remaining unsigned after a slew of lesser qualified players were picked up by various teams, speculation ran rampant over whether the owners colluded to keep him out of the league. Having had enough, the embattled quarterback hired super lawyer Mark Geragos, who has defended Chris Brown, Michael Jackson and a host of other celebrities, to file a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement citing collusion by the owners.
The basis of the grievance was “retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice.” Geragos went on to say that Kaepernick “should not be punished and… denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government.” Kaepernick’s only goal is to “be treated fairly by the league…and return to the football playing field.” Geragos filed the grievance “only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.”
The Strategy Of Winning
If successful, Kaepernick could receive twice the amount he would have earned had he been signed to a team, but it does not mandate a team sign him to their roster. Filing the grievance may be the end of proverbial NFL road for Kaepernick. His protest has already caused a public relations nightmare for the NFL and sparked the ire of the president who sideswiped the narrative, twisting the message into an unpatriotic mess.
And what of the partisan politics Geragos mentioned? That was a thinly veiled swipe against several NFL team owners who donated about $7.25 million to Trump’s inauguration committee. Football is big business and anyone who threatens the brand politically, economically or otherwise, Geragos asserts, just isn’t worth the trouble.
Indeed, while Kaepernick may not be able to return to the sport he loves, he has become the voice of a movement and the world is taking notice. In the early fall, some members of the New York Police Department held a rally in support of Kaepernick at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Frank Serpico, the former NYPD officer whose campaign against police corruption whom Al Pacino made famous in the film Serpico, spearheaded the rally, along with 75 officers in attendance wearing #imwithkap t-shirts.
In an attempt to silence protests amid falling ratings, the NFL recently pledged to donate $100 million to African-American social causes deemed important by the players in response to the their grievances, but protests continued throughout the holidays.
Although the league may be shying away from Kaepernick, his brand as America’s quarterback is hotter than ever.
“Someday, America may well be a better place because of Colin Kaepernick,” Sports Illustrated wrote in its decision to give Kaepernick the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, “This is hard to see now—history is not meant to be analyzed in real time. But we are having the conversations we need to have, and this should eventually lead to changes we need to make.”
We predict Kaepernick will continue to call plays as America’s quarterback in 2018. Stay tuned.
Lisa Bonner, Esq, is a New York-based entertainment lawyer, journalist, producer, podcaster, globetrotter, dreamchaser, uber opinionated, blessed & highly favored girl from Tha Lou.