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Dennis Marek: Was there a winner in NFL vs. Kaepernick?

March 3, 2019

Let’s start with the firm understanding the NFL is one of the biggest and best businesses in our country. It makes more money than we ever can believe. It pays millions of dollars for many men who couldn’t earn a decent living but for their skills on the football field.

With that in mind, I also believe every one of those players risks his long term physical and mental health in exchange for those dollars. CTE (consistent traumatic blows to the brain) has been proven to be a real thing. If one watches the movie “Concussion” and he played football, he either sees what damage probably was done to him, or he feels truly blessed his mental faculties still are functioning.

There is no doubt the African-American has been short-changed since the slaves were brought here from Africa. Having just finished John Grisham’s book, “The Reckoning,” I once again am reminded of the awful treatment of our black population for too long. While it is better today, it is far from perfect. Those who think discrimination ended when Lincoln declared the slaves free might want to go back to grade school.

But posit this. What right does an employee have to choose a political action in the midst of a nonpolitical event? If your employer says he or she will not tolerate hats at the workplace and you want to wear one at work with MAGA on it, is it fair for the owner of the place to fire you for insubordination? Does not the employer have certain rights of respect when you are at work?

That being said, we have the case of Colin Kaepernick, a somewhat-better-than-average NFL quarterback, who played for the San Francisco 49ers. He was let go by the Niners after his refusal to stand for our National Anthem. He claims he no longer could acknowledge or respect the flag of our nation because of all the hypocrisy and hatred toward the African-Americans in our country. The owner of the Niners felt this disrespect of our nation was so great it could hurt attendance and support of the team by its fans. As a veteran, I can agree. It is the flag of our nation. Demonstrations by Americans should not include the demeaning of our American flag.

We know the NFL is a huge business, with billions of dollars invested to own a team. Most of the owners bought their teams to make money. Sure, some want the recognition and hoopla that goes with being such an owner, but most are making an investment in big dollars.

Upon his release from San Francisco, Kaepernick tried to sign on with other NFL teams. For whatever reason, no one would have him. In any business, one cannot discriminate in hiring based on national origin or race. I get that. But here, the failure to hire was not because he was an African-American. The NFL has more African-American players than Caucasian. It was because he was a disgrace to our country in their eyes. If an applicant for a job with me declared his dislike of my country, I wouldn’t hire him or her, no matter what the race. Not in my place of business.

So, a lawsuit was filed by Kaepernick claiming there was a conspiracy against him for his principles, and no one in the NFL would hire him. Lawsuits cost money. NFL owners know that. Think of the money lost when the players went on strike a few years ago. The owners and the NFL organization are shrewd businessmen and businesswomen to say the least.

But this lawsuit was filed by a man who claimed he was discriminated against because of his race and his political beliefs. While that was far from true, if he believed that, and if he wanted to win a court victory giving him the right to kneel or sit during the playing of our National Anthem, then I have to give him credit for his determination and bravery, even though doing so is rather foolish. A willingness to forgo his career and millions of dollars for his right to protest the treatment of African-Americans in our country is a worthy position.

On the other side, the NFL wanted to get over this potential distraction of politics vs. human rights. They wanted to get on with the game. So, they ponied up a lot of money, perhaps, if you believe the rumors, $60 million or $80 million, to make the problem go away. They settled the lawsuit. Chicken feed to them. The San Diego Padres just paid Manny Machado $300 million to come play for them. Professional sports team owners have way more money than they need.

Kaepernick took the deal, agreed not to disclose any of the terms and went away. Certainly his career is over. If he, unlike many professional athletes, uses common sense, he can live the life of a king forever.

But wait. He didn’t do this for the money but for the principal. Right? Wrong. He just sold out. If he truly was sincere about his right to protest, he would have laughed at the offer and proceeded through the court system to win his case and win for the African-American people and any protesting group. Too bad he chose not to stand up for his beliefs in the end.

What did his antics accomplish? Nothing for the rights of protesters, nothing for the African-American population still struggling for equality, nothing for Black Lives Matter but only for money for Colin Kaepernick. Any respect I might have had for him went straight out the window when the millions of dollars were thrown in.