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Things don’t seem to be adding up here.

The NFL just came off a whirlwind 24 hours ahead of its opening weekend slate of games, and the dizzying results left many scratching their heads over the logic used to justify offering a contract to one player while refusing to do so for another.

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That, of course, was a reference to the New England Patriots signing reviled but extremely talented wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has for more than two years seemingly been doing everything in his power to cause repeated disruptions for NFL franchises he’s been a part of. Yet, despite that blatant truth and unchallengeable fact, there were probably still behind-the-scenes bidding wars for his talents that he previously threatened that any team interested in him would have to “play by my rules,” not theirs.

To say there was some irony here, considering the treatment Colin Kaepernick has received for silently protesting social justice by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, would be a gross understatement (emphasis on gross).

The NFL’s working logic for not one single team offering a contract to Kaepernick, a Super Bowl quarterback who’s been out of work since 2016, has revolved around the idea that he was a distraction. But a comprehensive timeline by CBS Sports of Brown’s NFL career underscored the myriad instances that he has negatively affected his teams with his histrionics both behind closed doors and in public.

From questionable social media activity — like live-streaming a post-game celebration in the locker room (a violation of NFL policy) — to publicly ridiculing his quarterback and refusing to practice to being benched for it to threatening the retire to demanding a trade to refusing to play because of a helmet to damaging his own feet demanding his release from the very team he was traded to after demanding he be traded, Brown’s name has been ringing bells for just about everything other than catching footballs. 

All of which begs the question: Is kneeling to bring attention to a scourge of society (police brutality against Black people) really more of a distraction than everything Brown has been doing? The answer to anyone paying attention is obviously no. But the answer to those in power who have the privilege of selectively turning a blind eye to certain situations (Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, for starters) that answer was a resounding yes.

As Bomani Jones astutely noted for the Undefeated in 2017, the word “distraction” is “football’s laziest cliché” that’s become “a catchall for anything or anyone a team might not like.”

After it was reported that Brown still got his way and forced his release from the Raiders Saturday morning only to be snatched up by the Patriots hours later, many people on social media wondered if that transaction was the final proof needed to show that Kaepernick — who NFL brass and team owners have been accused of colluding against to keep him out of the league — has indeed been blackballed.

Others argued that Brown was supremely talented at his position compared to Kaepernick at his. But the truth was both players have competed in the Super Bowl once (not against each other) and both have lost. Brown’s numbers are indeed impressive. But with Kaepernick not being allowed to return to the NFL gridiron, it is impossible to know what he could have accomplished over the past three seasons he’s been forced to sit out.

The entire situation exposed what appeared to be the NFL’s hypocrisy over what it will and will not tolerate from a player. It seemed to suggest that as long as a player is willing to submit to the league’s white male power structure and not work to further civil rights issues, the NFL was willing to turn a blind eye. That seemed to be true when embattled receiver Tyreek Hill signed a lucrative contract last week despite being accused of abusing his toddler son and audio evidence of him physically threatening the child’s mother.

In spite of all of the above, or because of it, NFL fans will continue blocking out the aforementioned facts and keep rooting for their CTE-causing teams governed by all-white and all-male owners who dictate who can and cannot play in a league that is 70 percent Black.

This is America.


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