Here we are on a Monday morning, fresh off a fascinating day of football with storylines such as the Ravens steamrolling the Texans and cementing themselves as arguably the best team in football. The Patriots avenged their Super Bowl loss to the Eagles and stayed a game up in the AFC. The Cowboys righted the ship, the Colts are tied for the division lead, and the 49ers overcame a 16 point deficit to improve to 9-1.
As I watch the national pundits on TV overlook all of that in order to discuss Colin Kaepernick, I’m reminded why he will never play in the NFL again. And I don’t think it will ever be close to happening.
The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
We’re currently living in the most crazed media era of our country’s history. Everyone has a voice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And people are way more inclined to use that voice than at any other point in time. In my personal opinion, many are often looking for a fight or a cause or something to latch onto.
When someone goes into a restaurant and their cheeseburger is medium well instead of well-done, rather than call the manager over and ask them to re-make it, many will take to social media and post a one star review. If the restaurant knows that the customer actually did ask for it to be medium well and wants to respond accordingly, is it really a smart business decision to do so? Or is it better for them to take their lumps, respond with an apology, and put on a welcoming face to all viewing the interaction?
When a famous basketball player misses a game winning shot in a playoff game, they have to deal with thousands of disparaging mentions, death threats, and more.
For better or worse, this it the world in 2019 as we know it.
We are quick to judge and condemn and slow to consider other possibilities. And most of all, we’re highly reactionary to anything that happens. The bigger the celebrity or authority figure (Tiger Woods, Robert Kraft, Ray Rice, Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger) the more of “guilty until proven innocent” they deal with.
Is it always fair? Not really. But it comes with the territory of being a worldwide celebrity, public figure, and millionaire/billionaire.
So when Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem and protest, he knew full well what he was getting into. It’s fine for him to have his beliefs. We are free to believe whatever we want in this country, and we’re free to express those beliefs as well. That’s what my dad and grandfather and everyone else who has served this country has fought for.
But does he have the right to express whatever beliefs he wants as an employee of a business when he is on the job? That’s a horse of a different color, and that is the issue that he’s having as he wants to get back into the NFL.
(And yes, I do believe he genuinely wants to play football again).
As a billion dollar entity, NFL franchises have to weigh the cost/benefit, risk/reward when it comes to signing Colin Kaepernick. What are the risks? Well, from someone who has been in NFL locker rooms and practice facilities, I’ve seen my fair share of media scrums. Does an owner, GM, head coach, teammates, etc want the biggest center of attention on the team to be potentially a backup quarterback? There’s a reason Tim Tebow did not continue playing in the NFL. Was he one of the best 60-75 quarterbacks back in 2010, 2011? Of course he was. But was “the juice worth the squeeze” in having the backup QB be the biggest public figure and lightning rod in the locker room? NO!
Why is Kareem Hunt helping the Browns win games on national tv while Ray Rice was blackballed from the league? Well, Ray Rice was miserable in his last season before an elevator video changed his life. He ran for 660 yards in 15 games, averaging 3.1 yards per carry in 2013. Kareem Hunt? Hunt averaged 4.6 yards a carry in 2018 and is three years younger than Rice when he had his incident.
In the eyes of Jimmy Haslam, the juice of having a dynamic playmaker at running back outweighs the squeeze of whatever backlash he has gotten, is getting, and will get from his fanbase.
Remember when Steve Bisciotti was at the podium defending himself after the Ray Rice saga? When thousands of female Ravens fans were expressing themselves (because everyone had a voice in 2014 as well) threatening to never root for the team again if Ray Rice remained on the team.
Keep in mind that Ray was known as one of the best people, not just players, in the organization. Ray was very active in the community. He was, by all accounts, a great guy who made one mistake. His wife, Janay, stood by him at every turn. They are now married and have a beautiful family with their two children, Rayven and Jaylen.
So the woman, Janay, stood by Ray at every turn and forgave him, but fans who have never met or interacted with them threatened to take their business elsewhere if he was still on the team.
Again, what a world we live in.
Because of that, the Ravens have made a conscious decision to completely avoid all players with a hint of domestic violence history. Think the Ravens could have used Joe Mixon coming out of Oklahoma? For a team that started Terrence West at RB in 2017, they passed over him as he went 46th overall in the draft. Why? Because he had a bad moment that was caught on video, and the Ravens decided, organizationally, that they’d rather start an undrafted guy out of Towson who is now out of the NFL than take a chance on a dynamic playmaker who would have went early in the first round if not for the incident.
The juice just wasn’t worth the squeeze.
That brings us back to Colin Kaepernick. If a team signs him in 2019, it will be a complete circus when he reports to his team. He’ll have more cameras and microphones around him than anyone on the team. If the Ravens brought him in to backup Lamar Jackson, as an example, he would garner more attention than the current Vegas favorite to win the NFL MVP.
Who wants that?
You’ll also have approximately 50% of your fanbase that thinks it’s terrible that their team is supporting someone who (in the eyes of approximately 50% of the political space) disrespected family members that have served or are serving in the military and who blatantly protested the American flag, which to many is the most sacred visual symbol of what our country represents.
Do I believe that was his intention. I definitely DO NOT. I believe that Colin Kaepernick genuinely wanted to make a statement about what he (and many) perceives as police brutality and treatment of minorities.
But I also believe he went about it the wrong way and didn’t think about how it would impact the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL as a business.
Dennis Koulatsos is the General Manager at Koons Baltimore Ford. I’ve known Dennis for about a decade and I’ve come to respect and admire him as a person and also a business leader. If you talk to Dennis and ask him about his core beliefs/rules of his dealership, one of the first things you’ll hear Dennis say is that he does not allow any discussion of race, religion, or politics among his workplace. There’s simply no upside in it. Wherever someone stands on politics, it’s going to turn off 50% of your customer base. And more than that, his customers don’t want to be told what to believe on those much-debated topics. They want an escape from that.
In the same way that people who go to football games want an escape from the daily grind and topics that we all deal with everyday in our professional and personal lives. Going to Colts and Ravens games in Baltimore on a Sunday afternoon has been an escape and tradition and ritual in this city for a very long time. Mix in politics and knees (and praying, with respect to Ray Lewis) and statements and it just doesn’t become fun anymore.
Those empty seats in 2017 and 2018? Maybe the team wasn’t playing the most exciting brand of football, but it was the knee that played the biggest role, BY FAR, in the lack of excitement surrounding the franchise and the sport in general.
So again, why would an organization sign an aging quarterback (whose mobility was a huge part of his game) who is 3-16 in his last 19 starts and, as a business, throw their support behind him.
Because whoever signs him would be supporting his protest. Just like the Ravens would have been supporting men who punch their fiancees in elevators. Just like sponsors who write checks to Tiger Woods support husbands cheating on their wives with 10 different girls.
Don’t believe me? Here in 2019, all you have to do is check Twitter or Facebook.
The NFL is a business. Colin Kaepernick is an employee. He very publicly disrespected a huge portion of the NFL’s clients (their fans). If I or anyone reading this did something similar at their job, they would have been fired immediately.
If no NFL teams in today’s age want to sign Colin Kapenerick, that’s on HIM.
Not the NFL and not any of the 32 teams who have made the same determination.
The juice simply isn’t worth the squeeze.