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Retiring NFL quarterback Andrew Luck surprised fans when he announced over the weekend that he was voluntarily stepping away from pro football because of nagging injuries. But amazingly, Luck’s immediate departure from the Indianapolis Colts has resulted in the franchise rewarding him handsomely instead of following the NFL’s script of resenting a player’s personal decision that puts the team in a lurch days before the season begins.

That treatment stood in stark contrast to what we’ve come to see from how another, more talented quarterback (when comparing resumes, at least) was received when he also decided to step away from his respective team.

That reward came in the form of the Colts allowing Luck to keep the nearly $17 million in bonuses that the retiring quarterback still owed his team for not fulfilling contractual obligations. Luck said he was too beset by injuries to continue playing. Meanwhile, a little more than two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers owed Colin Kaepernick nearly $17 million in salary and bonuses before the team made it known they were going to cut him — arguably because he was kneeling during the national anthem — all but forcing him to opt-out of his contract.

Admittedly, the circumstances surrounding Kapernick’s decision to opt-out of a deal with the 49ers were very different from Luck’s reasons to do the same with his team this weekend. But it can’t be overlooked that Kaep’s name was still nowhere to be heard as a potential addition to the roster of the Colts, which was supposed to be serious about being a contender in the league this upcoming season.

One day after Luck announced his retirement, Sports Illustrated ran a story with a headline declaring that “Colts’ Super Bowl Odds Drop Drastically After Andrew Luck Retires.” Kaepernick, who posted to social media earlier this month that he was “Still Ready” for a return to the NFL after training “5 days a week” for the past “3 years,” seems to have been never even considered to fill the apparent roster void left by Luck’s departure. Kaepernick has the Super Bowl experience that teams theoretically desire in a quarterback after he led the 49ers to the franchise’s first NFL championship game in 18 years. 

Considering all of the above, it seemed like there may be no better time than the present for newly crowned NFL social justice ambassador Jay-Z to step in and bring renewed attention to Kaep’s plight by juxtaposing it with the lucrative sendoff the Colts gave a player whose accomplishments on the field fell well short of expectations coming out of college. Conversely, Kaep, a second-round pick to Luck’s first overall selection, exceeded expectations while leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

To the Colts’ credit, the team quickly updated its roster to reflect that it already has a third-string quarterback in place, which is typically the maximum number of quarterbacks a team keeps active. That includes not one but two Black quarterbacks, and Jacoby Brissett was expected to be the new starter. But it’s also pretty common for a team’s quarterback to be injured, at least part of a season, forcing substitute players to step up and ultimately creating the need for another player to become the new third option. 

In theory, that should still leave a place in the league for Kaep. But in practice, as the Colts turn a blind eye to the millions it lost on a franchise player in Luck, Kaepernick, who is healthy, willing and able, has remained effectively blacklisted from returning to the NFL and probably playing for less than the Colts forfeited on Luck.

This is America.

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