Column: Kaepernick’s unemployment reveals NFL double standard

In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick(7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The countdown to the 2017 NFL season is nearly complete and Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent. Not only is he unsigned, but Kaepernick hasn’t so much as gotten a single workout since he took a stand against how people of color are treated in the United States.

Whether you agree with his message or not, and whether you want to believe it or not, the fact is that Kaepernick remaining unsigned has nothing to do with his on-field play. And more importantly, it reveals a horrible double standard in the NFL.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Kaepernick is not a free agent because of his lack of ability to play the quarterback position in the NFL. Too many people are quick to point out that Kaepernick isn’t good anymore, that he can’t throw, or that his style of offense makes him not worth signing.

No, Kaepernick is not the quarterback he was when he led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012. But he’s not washed-up, either.

In 12 games with the 49ers in 2016, Kaepernick threw for 2,241 yards on a 59.2 completion percentage with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Those numbers aren’t going to set the world on fire, but they are far better than what 90 percent of backup quarterbacks and even a few starting quarterbacks can bring to the table.

Just look at some of the quarterback matchups set for NFL week one. The Rams against the Colts will feature Jared Goff against Scott Tolzien. The Texans vs. the Jaguars will pit Tom Savage against Blake Bortles.

And when the Bills play the Jets, the two teams will send out Tyrod Taylor and Josh McCown, respectively. The only quarterbacks out of those who should not be supplanted by Kaepernick are Goff and potentially Taylor, because one has potential and the other has had success in the past. Otherwise, those four are dreadful, and one of them would likely be on the bench in favor of Kaepernick if not for the stand he has taken against injustice.

And those are just the starters. We haven’t even gotten into the backup and third-string quarterbacks yet. Excluding the rookies who will obviously be given precedence because of their potential, there are very, very few bench QBs who deserve to be on teams over Kaepernick.

Among the second-string quarterbacks that currently have jobs, we have Ryan Mallett, Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Matt Schaub, Austin Davis, and plenty of other poor players. Say what you will about Kaepernick’s talent, but he is better than all those guys and it’s not really close. When you take into account the third-stringers like Christian Hackenberg, Mark Sanchez and Tyler Bray, you realize how ridiculous it is that Kaepernick is still unemployed. And again, not only is he unemployed, he hasn’t so much as gotten a workout yet.

Kaepernick is unsigned because teams don’t want to deal with the distraction and fan backlash that he’ll inevitably bring to the team. In other cases, I would understand that. Guys that are more trouble than they’re worth are typically not going to get signed. But the issue is the fact that Kaepernick is considered troublesome at all.

This is the NFL: a league where domestic abusers have no difficulty finding their way onto an NFL roster. Coaches and most fans don’t bat an eye when their team signs a guy who has been accused, or in some cases found guilty, of abusing their significant other. Yet a guy who took a knee during the national anthem is being blackballed? It’s an absurd double standard.

On one side, you have people who committed some of the most disgusting crimes possible and they’re employed. On the other hand, you have someone who exercised his right to protest, because whether you agree with it or not, it is his constitutional right, and he can’t even get a workout. Why do NFL front offices and many fans consider kneeling to be worse than domestic abuse? It’s hypocritical and backwards.

Kaepernick did receive some interest from the Baltimore Ravens over the summer, but the team made itself look foolish in the process. First, they polled their fans about how they would feel about the Ravens signing Kaepernick. The Ravens did not take a fan poll when they welcomed Ray Rice, who was once caught on video physically attacking his girlfriend in an elevator, back to the team during training camp in 2014. In fact, fans gave Rice a standing ovation when he jogged onto the practice field.

Football is a tough game. Injuries will happen throughout the season, players will be ineffective and quarterback changes will be made. We can only hope that throughout this inevitable turmoil, Kaepernick eventually finds his way onto an NFL roster. He deserves it since the only reason he’s not employed is because of a horrible double standard that exists in the NFL. Kneeling is not illegal, but the way Kaepernick is being treated sure feels like a crime.


Brandon Carney is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brandon.carney@uconn.edu.