Colin Kaepernick filing for grievance after long-standing situation

The next chapter of a situation that all started with a stance against social injustice


Colin Kaepernick warms up for his first preseason game of the 2016 season Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons

Alex Young, Author

The saga continues; on Sunday, October 15, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick filed a grievance of collusion against the NFL under the terms of the most recent collective bargaining agreement. So in English, he believes he is being treated unfairly by NFL owners, and is legally taking a stand.

Kaepernick is one of the biggest names in the sports industry, yet remarkably, he does not play any sports – or at least not anymore. As a former member of the San Francisco 49ers, his six-year career was filled with many ups and downs. As a starter, he led his team to a Super Bowl appearance in his first season, and to the NFC Championship the following year. Although his success went spiraling down after those two years, Kaepernick has a lot more success than many other NFL quarterbacks who are still in the league. The question is, why are quarterbacks with worse career statistics still signed to NFL teams, while he is not?

It all started on August 26, 2016. Before the final preseason game, Kaepernick chose to do what no other NFL player had done before; he chose to kneel during the National Anthem. Following the game, Kaepernick was asked why he was not standing with the rest of his team. He responded to the reporters by saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” This was the beginning of a movement that has really shaken the NFL, and even more so, the media. Eventually, a handful of players began to join Kaepernick in kneeling for the anthem. Some of these players were his own teammates, others were members of other NFL teams. One thing that was for sure was the cause of the kneeling; to bring awareness to social injustice towards people of color, whether it is related to police brutality, stereotyping, or any unfair acts.

On common misconception that many NFL fans believe is that Kaepernick’s stats have been going down since he started his protests. This is actually not the case as his stats have nearly stayed the same throughout his career, the only difference would be that his team eventually stopped winning games. Throughout his career, his completion percentage stayed between 58 and 62 percent, and his touchdown to interception ratio stayed around 3 to 1. Although that is not great for a starting NFL quarterback, his stats have not changed much at all. On the flip side, a starting quarterback needs to win games, and he has not been doing that. The 49ers team records over the years when he is playing are as followed [Remember, each NFL season has 16 games, yet he did not play in all of them; he was benched multiple times]:

2012: 5 wins, 2 loses

2013: 12 wins, 4 loses

2014: 8 wins, 8 loses

2015: 2 wins, 6 loses

2016: 1 win, 10 loses

So it is pretty clear that Kaepernick’s winning percentage has gone down, but what is the reason that he is not signed to an NFL team? Is it because of his statistics being mediocre, is it because NFL owners do not like his social stance and national anthem antics, or is it both?

Kaepernick is not the best NFL quarterback, that cannot be disputed, but the reason this situation is so odd is because there are quarterbacks that are notoriously worse than Kaepernick that are still signed to NFL teams while he is not. Players like Brandon Weeden of the Titans, Dan Orlovsky of the Rams, Ryan Mallet of the Ravens, Kellen Moore of the Cowboys, and even EJ Manuel of the Raiders are all signed to active rosters. All those players combined are arguably not as successful as just Kaepernick himself. Kaepernick believes that the reason they were signed over him was not because of play on the field, but because of his stance towards social injustice and the reaction it has caused across America. He believes that owners are purposely avoiding him because of his social stance. That is why he is filing grievance against the NFL.

At the end of the last NFL season, Kaepernick had the chance to “opt out” of the last year of his contract with the 49ers. By choosing to do this, he became a free agent – unsigned to any team. After months went by, the media started to get uneasy. Anyone else as good as Kaepernick would have been signed to a team by then, yet he was not. This raised a lot of questions in the media, especially on ESPN and Twitter.

When this NFL season started, this situation did not end. Although Kaepernick was no longer in the league, he left a big mark. Many players, faculty, and even owners from all around the NFL joined together to kneel for the national anthem during weeks four and five. Many teams had a least a few players taking a knee – some even had all. On the flip side, just as many teams refused to kneel for the anthem claiming that it was disrespectful to the nation, the military, and anyone who has died for the flag. One of these teams was the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys said, too many of the fans of the Dallas Cowboys perceive this as disrespect for the flag. And so I don’t want our team doing it.” Jones continued by later saying, “That’s not what we’re about. I’m removing the politics. I’m removing everything from this. What I have the right to say is who’s on that football field.” Many fans took Jones’ comments as him saying that you will not play if you kneel for the anthem. So in other words, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

On the contrary, teams that do support players using their platform for social stances are the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans, both of which did not even come out for the National Anthem during week 5. Alongside them are the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their whole team also stayed inside of the locker room, all except one player, offensive lineman Alejandro Villaneuva. In the next week that followed, Villaneuva’s NFL jersey skyrocketed to the number one seller in the nation.

All of this started with Kaepernick.  Normally, players that have an issue with the NFL go straight to the NFL Player’s Association to handle it. The NFLPA frequently meets with owners to discuss concerns the players have about the league. Kaepernick on the other hand, is not involving the NFLPA. He has hired an attorney, Mark Gregos, to represent him. Gregos has previously worked with clients such as Michael Jackson and Jeremy Mayfield. One of Gregos’ statements about his client’s case was, “[owners] have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice.” Kaepernick, his fans, and a handful of analysts believe that NFL teams are not interested in him because of what he believes and what it has caused, not because of how he plays. Opposers on the other hand, think that owners have the right to not sign anyone they want, and that they do not have to be interested in Kaepernick, whether he has been playing well or not.

When two Battlefield High School students were asked about why they think Kaepernick is still unsigned, opinions varied. Junior Atiyah Kennedy, who is a proud Pittsburgh Steelers fan said, “I believe that if Colin Kaepernick had not made his political statements, he would still be in the league today. He may not have been one of the best quarterbacks, but he was definitely good enough to remain in the league, and maybe even get a chance to start. He’s most likely not being signed [by teams] because his protests paint a bad picture for any franchise involved with him, but I think he has a case to argue.” Kennedy’s statements refer to the backlash that teams have received for even being rumored to have been working out Kaepernick. Many fans do not want to see their team associated with him, so owners have to be careful.

Junior Jake Hitt, an avid Green Bay Packers fan, continued by saying, “I think it’s a mixture of both [Kaepernick being unsigned for his skill and his stance]. When he has a high-caliber team around him, he can be successful, but once that team is gone he isn’t able to carry a franchise on his own. Now, he has the talent to be a solid backup QB in the NFL, but that’s it. He’s like Tim Tebow; no owner wants their backup quarterback making news. That causes a lot of tension on teams, especially with an issue like this. I think he isn’t getting signed because of all the publicity he has caused in all of this.” Hitt himself is a member of Battlefield High School’s football team.

Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, it is safe to say that his movement will not be going away anytime soon. He has his attorney, the NFL has theirs, and now it is left up to the court system to decide what will happen next.