Colin Kaepernick’s Grievance

I am striding out onto thin ice today; I want to talk about Colin Kaepernick’s grievance filed under the CBA against the NFL for collusion; as I have mentioned here many times, I am not an attorney; this topic is anywhere but “in my wheelhouse”.  Kaepernick has filed this grievance alleging that the reason he remains unemployed as a quarterback in pro football is his peaceful protest at the start of NFL games last season.  Here are statements from his representatives:

“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest – which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago – should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment.

“Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days at a nation.  Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.

“Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for, and to return to the football playing field.”

In a Ken Burns documentary, that statement would be read in a solemn voice with The Battle Hymn of the Republic played on a harmonica as soft background music.  I would like to make two observations about those statements:

  1. Peaceful political protest should not be punished for hundreds of reasons – probably the least of which is to maintain the “meritocracy status” of the NFL.
  2. I am totally unclear on what the statement refers to as our “darkest days as a nation” since what we are talking about here is a grievance about employment.  In my opinion, our “darkest days” were the times of the Civil War in the 1860s and for the life of me, I have no idea how this grievance relates to that or how this peaceful protest relates to the anything-but-peaceful political protests of that time.

From what I have read, to prove collusion one needs concrete evidence.  When the MLB owners were found guilty of collusion there were written exchanges found in the discovery process that laid open what they had done.  It seems to me that the existence – or the non-existence – of such memos/e-mails/text messages/whatevers is the key to this case.  And I think that is an important point.

In a legal process like this, it is important to focus on what the plaintiff can prove as opposed to what the plaintiff can allege and build a circumstantial case around.  Do I believe that Colin Kaepernick’s “national anthem behavior” last year is the reason he is unemployed now?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe that the NFL owners as a group – with or without participation from the NFL Front Office – ever sat down and mutually agreed that none of them would allow Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL ever again?  Someone will have to provide me with some evidence there.

And to prove collusion, that is the evidence the Kaepernick legal team will have to present.  It is not important to consider what “everyone knows” or “everyone thinks” in a matter such as this.  Recall the OJ Simpson trial in the 90s; loads of people “knew” that he murdered two people but the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to convict him.  In the legal world, OJ Simpson did not commit those two murders; that is the fact of that matter.

The statements made so far are PR statements and nothing more.  Most of the analysis provided by talking heads on TV and columnists are commentaries on the merits of filing such a grievance.  Let me suggest that everyone take a deep breath here and wait to see evidence of collusion and not arm-waving assertions of how it must be the case.  A grievance should not be decided based on a well-scripted conspiracy theory.  If that were to happen, it would be a dark day for us as a nation.

Changing direction here, I want to play a little game with you.  Consider these data on 5 NFL head coaches all of whom plied their trade in the modern era.  No one here is George Halas or Curly Lambeau or Paul Brown.

  • Coach A:  17 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 143-112-0.  Winning percentage = .561.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach B:  19 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 172-130-1.  Winning percentage = .569.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach C:  10 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 92-59-1.  Winning percentage = .609.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach D:  16 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 154-94-0.  Winning percentage = .621.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach E:  19 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 178-115-1.  Winning percentage = .607.  He is NOT the Hall of Fame.

Presented that way, you might think that “Coach E” should have no trouble with the Hall of Fame Selection Committee – – unless you think that the four coaches on this list above him are really not worthy of such an honor themselves.  So, let me reveal the names here:

  • Coach A is Marv Levy.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach B is Bill Parcells.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach C is Bill Walsh.  I have no problem with him being in the Hal of Fame.
  • Coach D is Joe Gibbs.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame – but I do wish that he had never come back for a second stint with the Skins which sullied his record and reputation instead of enhancing it.

There are going to be lots of NFL fans who will be unhappy to know that Coach E is Andy Reid – a man who took over two downtrodden teams and produced 19 productive years and counting.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Andy Reid to attract Hall of Fame consideration once he retires.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“The state granted Miami’s Magic City Casino permission to replace its dog races with jai-alai matches. ‘Damn!’ said one of the greyhounds. ‘And just when I was finally gaining on that !@#$ing rabbit!’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………