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Wed, Jan. 29

Kobritz: Colin Kaepernick sabotages own return to NFL
BEYOND THE LINES

We may have witnessed the nadir in a drama known as Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL. Given an opportunity to showcase his talent after a three-year exile from the league, Kaepernick instead chose to show the world why he will never wear an NFL uniform again.

In Act One, Kaepernick was blackballed by the league after the 2016 season for kneeling in protest during the national anthem. His stance was unpopular among aging, white, conservative team owners who prioritize winning games and making money, not necessarily in that order, over drama and distraction.

Act Two was a lawsuit filed by Kaepernick against the NFL, which the league wisely settled to avoid disclosure of evidence to substantiate Kaepernick’s claims that owners violated league rules, the CBA and antitrust laws. Act Three was supposed to be a workout in front of scouts representing teams with a need for a starting or backup veteran quarterback, a group that includes virtually all of the league’s 32 teams. But the workout didn’t take place as planned.

At the eleventh hour, Kaepernick and his advisors refused to accede to the league’s non-negotiable demands, the most objectionable being a ban against media presence at the showcase and the execution of a release. The first condition was an attempt to avoid a media circus, which based on subsequent actions was apparently exactly what the Kaepernick side wanted. The second demand was an attempt to insulate the league against a potential lawsuit if Kaepernick wasn’t offered a contract.

Kaepernick’s camp moved the workout, originally scheduled at the Atlanta Falcons’ stadium, to a high school field 60 miles away. After throwing a few passes before a gaggle of supporters, the former quarterback hurled a few choice words at the NFL, hardly the best way to endear himself to team owners.

It didn’t have to happen that way, but the reason it did comes down to one word: trust, as in a lack thereof. The parties don’t trust each other, and for good reason as the theatrics surrounding the workout demonstrate. Neither Kaepernick nor his agents believed the NFL was serious about letting him display his skills or that teams were really interested in signing him. The league in turn didn’t believe Kaepernick was truly interested in playing again.

We’ll never know if the former is true, although more than 20 teams committed to attend the scheduled workout. However, we can easily deduce from Kaepernick’s actions that he was more interested in continuing his protest than suiting up for a team. If he was intent on playing football, he would have signed the release and showed up in Atlanta, rather than holding a workout cum spectacle before adoring supporters.

Fair or not, the NFL had every right to set the workout rules. Unless someone is self-employed, they don’t get to work on their terms, let alone set the terms of an “audition” for a job.

Can Kaepernick still help an NFL team? We’ll never know. He decided to pass on his last opportunity to show that he could.

Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

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