In the nearly year and a half since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, we’ve learned a lot about the NFL and, by extension, the nation.
For one, we’ve learned that for all our lofty talk about respecting our differences, it is only rhetoric. As a nation, we seem ill-equipped to handle much above the tastes great, less filling debate.
We learned over the weekend that no less a national treasure than retired Dodger announcer Vin Scully has succumbed to the tired trope that kneeling during the national anthem is an insult to the military.
Scully, who used to announce NFL games on television, told a Southern California audience he won’t watch another game because of the protests.
To be clear, Kaepernick and other players have repeatedly said, apparently to no avail, that the kneeling has nothing to do with the military or the flag, but instead to bring awareness to police brutality and inequality.
Indeed, if anyone believed that professional football, the great national obsession, was somehow the vehicle to handle reasoned discourse on what dissent and patriotism mean in 2017, well, the league’s gutless reaction to Donald Trump’s bullying put that notion to rest.
And now, we may find out just how gutless Commissioner Smiling Roger Goodell and the 32 NFL owners are and have been over this issue.
Kaepernick and the NFL Players Association have filed a grievance with an arbitrator alleging that his failure to land a job in the league stems from collusion between the league’s owners.
To prove his case, Kaepernick and the union’s attorneys are seeking to depose Goodell and members of his staff, as well as team officials.
The guest list, if you can call it that, may include as many as nine owners or CEOs, including Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, among others.
You’ll recall that it was Bisciotti who asked for the counsel of fans over whether the Ravens should bring in Kaepernick during training camp.
More recently, Jones declared that any of his players who took a knee during the anthem would find themselves benched. And it was revealed that during a recent NFL meeting, McNair said the league couldn’t give the perception that the inmates were running the prison.
McNair, who has given more money to Republican candidates than any other owner, immediately apologized for mangling the idiom, claiming he wasn’t referring to players, but to league staff.
McNair’s comments touched off another round of mini-protests from players, who claim that the owners have no real interest in hearing their concerns, but want to suppress their protests so as not to offend the bottom line.
Kaepernick will likely have a difficult time proving that there was a unified effort of the 32 clubs not to hire him. The league’s owners may be craven, but they aren’t stupid.
But, think of all the hard feelings that could have been avoided both in the football realm and around the nation itself if just one of them had brought Kaepernick in and given him a job.
Belligerent and embarrassed isn’t much better than craven and stupid and it’s no way to go through life or to run a football team.
And that’s how I see it for this week.