Are NFL Owners Really Colluding Against Colin Kaepernick?

Yes, totally, but let's walk through it.

by Dave Lozo
Oct 16 2017, 3:09pm

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick is unemployed six weeks into the NFL season, and many believe it's because the league is blackballing him over his protests against social injustice, namely police violence against people of color.

According to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, Kaepernick has put that belief to the test by filing a grievance against the NFL's owners for collusion, which is a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement. The filing states that owners "have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick's leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States."

So what is the evidence here, really? Everyone talks about blackballing and collusion when it comes to Kaepernick, but what can they actually prove? How can I, someone who knows nothing about football or Kaepernick and only just arrived on this planet yesterday after spending six years on a space station, believe this is truly happening?

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that NFL owners would ever collude against anyone, especially players, whom they love and care about. It's insulting, really. Name one incident where there was even a whiff of collusion. You can't. If you could, you would have to go so far back that it wouldn't be relevant to today's league. Good luck finding that.

Hang on, I'm being told in May 2012 the NFLPA sued the league, alleging collusion designed to keep player contracts capped during the uncapped 2010 season.

Yeah, but a judge ruled in December 2012 and it was upheld in 2015 that, as part of the new CBA following the 2011 lockout, the NFLPA agreed to waive all "unknown claims" that may or may not have existed before the signing of the CBA. That's a win for the squeaky-clean, honestly run NFL, even if the ruling never says the NFL didn't actually collude.

Although, a clause in a CBA that says you can't sue for unknown things owners did prior to that CBA is like telling your significant other, "OK, I have to tell you something, and you have to promise not to get mad," and after they reluctantly agree, you say, "I may have been sleeping with your best friend for the past year." And just as they are about to get upset, you say, "Sorry, you promised you wouldn't get mad, therefore you have no grounds for any meaningful recourse against me."

But nothing was proven and that was seven years ago, so it's not as though the same owners are in power now. Nine new people have become NFL owners since 2010—that's nearly one-third of the league. So even if there were collusion back then, it can't apply now with so much ownership turnover.

I'm being told only two of the new owners—Kim and Terry Pegula with the Bills and Shahid Khan of the Jaguars—weren't family members of previous owners or already owners with a partial stake in a team. And Khan was one of only two owners to state publicly they'd have no problem with signing Kaepernick.

OK, fine, so what? So it's mostly the same owners that were accused of salary cap collusion in 2010. That doesn't mean they colluded here. It's inadmissible! Besides, we all know that Kaepernick isn't that good, right? The NFL is the highest level of football in the world, so it's silly to think that Kaepernick deserves a job just because he had one last year. Just look at his numbers:

12 games, 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 90.7 rating, 468 rushing yards, 2 TDs

Now compare that to starting quarterbacks around the league this year. Kaepernick doesn't meet the standards of a backup NFL quarterback, never mind a starting NFL quarterback.

I'm being told only 12 quarterbacks this season have a better than 90.7 rating. And 11 quarterbacks have already thrown more than four interceptions. And only three quarterbacks are on pace for more rushing yards.

But what this doesn't account for is age, and at 29, he may not be old, but he's NFL old.

I'm being told 29 is still young for an NFL quarterback.

But Kaepernick lacks big game experience, and nobody wants a quarterback who doesn't know what it means to win in the playoffs.

Damn it, now I'm being told he's 4-2 in the postseason and has been to the Super Bowl once and the conference championship twice.

This doesn't mean owners are colluding, though, because that would mean you'd need owners offering open disdain for what Kaepernick did—taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of protest. That would be very close to a smoking gun and only an idiot would do that. Show me one owner who has ever taken a public stance against the protest movement and threatened the employment of anyone who partakes in it.

I'm being told this is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones taking a public stance against the protest and threatening the employment of anyone that partakes in the protests: "But if there's anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won't play. Period."

OK, but one argument from Kaepernick's legal team is that owners are taking cues from President Donald Trump. Come on. What President would ever meddle in the affairs of a private company or use the office of the President to pressure owners with the threat of hurting them financially?

Man, come on, I'm being told that the leader of the free world recently referred to the NFL's protesters as "sons of bitches" who should be fired and later hinted in a tweet that maybe the league would lose some of its tax breaks if the protests didn't stop.

But even with those threats, where is the proof that owners support Trump?

Alright, alright, I'm being told NFL owners donated at least $7.75 million to Trump's inaugural committee. That's a lot of money.

Yeah, but it's not as though any of the new, forward-thinking, socially conscious owners were part of that.

Yep, yep, Khan donated $1 million to Trump.

But that $7.75 million is probably a similar amount to what owners donated to Barack Obama's inaugural committees.

Apparently that number is twice as much as Obama got from owners in 2009.

Yeah, but Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract after last season, so he has no one to blame but himself for his lack of employment.

Sigh, I'm being told that if he had not opted out of his deal, the 49ers told Kaepernick they planned to cut him despite a season that showed he was one of the 15 best quarterbacks in the NFL, which surely isn't odd or something that could be considered a sign of blackballing.

But if owners truly were colluding to deny Kaepernick a job for unfair reasons, show me one reputable NFL reporter who has ever said that. It's just wild-eyed conspiracy theorists out to make a name for themselves. You're wasting your time with this collusion idea.

I'm being told that ESPN's Adam Schefter, a man who has built a career on cultivating and maintaining sources within the NFL and is now employed by a network that's more interested in protecting the NFL shield than people's rights, absolutely believes NFL owners have colluded against Kaepernick , saying in July, "Do I think that certain owners have blocked teams from visits or interest? I do, I do believe that."

Fine. There seems to be some credible evidence that NFL owners are colluding against Kaepernick. But is there enough of it?

This is like one of those official reviews on a scoring play where you know the runner was down before he broke the plane of goal line and that the call on the field is wrong, but one angle on the play is obscured by a lineman's ass, another isn't dead-center along the goal line so it can't help, and the overhead shot is useless because you can't tell when the knee goes down, so the call can't be overturned.

In this grievance, the only thing not in dispute is whether Kaepernick's knee went down. You just have to hope there's another angle that proves conclusively what we all already know to be true: NFL owners are colluding against Kaepernick.