Colin Kaepernick has not played a game in over three years and many believe he lost his NFL career due to kneeling during the national anthem to protest brutality. In the midst of George Floyd’s tragic death which has sparked several protests across the country, one former NFL executive admits teams were “wrong” for not signing him.
On Saturday, Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, who served as the NFL’s primary spokesperson during the anthem controversy in 2017, wrote an op-ed piece for CNN where he talks about the issues teams had with Kaepernick and the shortcomings of the league in helping him get signed to a team.
My latest on https://t.co/giyZDGDdfS I argue the NFL and the players have done great work on the substance of racial injustice but have failed to resolve the symbol of that injustice – Colin Kaepernick.Watching MN reminds us the symbols are important too. https://t.co/jgdl2NPZyE
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) May 30, 2020
When I was an executive in the National Football League a few years ago, our organization was consumed by the case of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose silent kneeling protest against police brutality arguably led him to lose his NFL career and not be re-signed by any club. No teams wanted to sign a player — even one as talented as Kaepernick — whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business.
Though Kaepernick didn’t get his job back, I thought we had all done a righteous job, considering.
I was wrong. I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were.
According to Lockhart, teams feared that signing Kaepernick would hurt their business.
But for many owners it always came back to the same thing. Signing Kaepernick, they thought, was bad for business. An executive from one team that considered signing Kaepernick told me the team projected losing 20% of their season ticket holders if they did. That was a business risk no team was willing to take, whether the owner was a Trump supporter or a bleeding-heart liberal (yes, those do exist). As bad of an image problem it presented for the league and the game, no owner was willing to put the business at risk over this issue.
They were willing, though, to spend those millions to help address the problem of racial division in the country. For me, while I was uncomfortable with Colin not being signed, I told myself we were righteous in doing the hard work of making progress.
I was mistaken.
Lockhart is asking the Minnesota Vikings to sign Kaepernick as a symbolic gesture of goodwill.
The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice. As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.
It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence. But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made.
I know the Vikings owners love their adopted city of Minneapolis (they are from New Jersey originally) and signing Kaepernick would be a concrete step they can take to acknowledge that wrongs can be righted, and here’s one place to start.
Last year Kaepernick held a public workout for NFL teams but he never received an invitation for a tryout by any teams..