Colin Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster.
More specifically, Colin Kaepernick should be on the Chicago Football Bears. Even MORE specifically, every NFL GM who failed to signed Kap in the past five years should be forced to personally bankroll the campaign of one-to-five senators who would vote to reauthorize voting rights for Black people.
But Kap is not in the NFL. And even as the nation comes to agree that—shocker—the man the president called a “son of a bitch” for demanding an end to extrajudicial police killings was probably in the right, it doesn’t appear anyone is set to sign him.
That’s a travesty, but not a surprise. Be it domestic violence policies, player safety, or the definition of a catch, “travesty” is a pretty good word to describe most of the NFL.
So the question at this point is really whether Kaepernick should even want to play in the NFL. His Nike deal is worth millions per year, with his own brand of apparel reportedly in the works. His Know Your Rights Camp has emerged as one of the most prominent civil rights organizations of the recent movement. He’s set to narrate an Ava Duvernay-produced Netflix docuseries about his life.
He is, in the most cliched way, bigger than football.
Which gets back to the question of whether it would even make sense for him to spend his time playing a game when he could be affecting policy.
Certainly, he’s got every right to do whatever he wants, and I can say from experience* that it’s exceedingly fun to play professional football when you have his kind of arm strength, speed, and agility. He’s already done more than enough for one lifetime off the field, and no one would blame him for taking a nice payday to back up Tom Brady for the next 15 to 20 years.
But suddenly the NFL feels too small for him. His return would be like Jordan going to Birmingham, or Obama being president. Yeah, he can probably do it… but why would he?
With Washington changing its name and nearly every major sports league embracing his message, Kaepernick’s return at once feels inevitable and impossible. By blackballing him, the NFL has backed itself into a corner from which the only escape is a roster spot. But by so forcefully winning in this billion-dollar-industry vs. mobile-QB-from-Nevada fight, Kaepernick would be almost degrading himself if he were to return.
Admittedly, I’m probably getting ahead of myself. Maybe the NFL will continue to snub him. No one’s ever lost money betting on oligarchs to do the wrong thing.
But if the day comes when Kap suits back up in the NFL, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be satisfying.
*Legal note: I cannot say this from experience.