(Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange)
We have heard it for so many years from so many people in the NFL that we were almost starting to believe the Big Lie that, even though almost all the money in the league is divided equally, on a competitive level all the teams care about is winning and beating the others.
The Big Lie is that partnership ends at the sidelines.
SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 1: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Never has the league shown that to be such a falsehood until now, with the apparent blackballing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Look, no one here is claiming that Kaepernick is a really great guy, a wonderful teammate or the next coming of Joe Montana or Tom Brady. But when you look around the landscape and see some of the stiffs masquerading as NFL quarterbacks, when you consider some of the cretins that the league has welcomed back to its ranks through the years, when you weigh all the evidence, the conclusion is inescapable.
There is no clear proof – yet – that the league is orchestrating the blackballing of Kaepernick the way baseball teams subverted the salary cap by colluding a quarter-century ago. But the result could not be more clear.
–Kaepernick is one of only three quarterbacks still under age 30 who have led their team to the Super Bowl. The other two are Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.
–Kaepernick has the No. 11 passer rating among “active” NFL quarterbacks. Among those who trail him are such starters as Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill (injured), Newton, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning.
–Kaepernick has a winning percentage of .483, dragged down by last year’s 1-10 record with the 49ers. Before that, he was at .574. And it’s tough to pin last year on him; he threw 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions and averaged a career-high 6.8 yards a carry as a runner.
But even counting last season, the list of active quarterbacks with worse winning percentages include Kirk Cousins (who is making just under $24 million this year), Stafford and Sam Bradford, among others.
–Kaepernick has thrown 72 touchdown passes in his career and 30 interceptions. That’s a ratio of better than 2-to-1, and only four active quarterbacks have a better ratio.
We won’t even go into the Jay Cutler signing in Miami, because that’s a special case as he’s reunited with a coach under whom he had his best season in Chicago.
So, tell me again, how it is that all NFL teams care about is winning? You mean to tell me Kaepernick would not be an upgrade at quarterback for more than a handful of NFL teams? Or that fan reaction would be so brutal teams can’t take a chance on signing him, yet they have been perfectly content in recent years to employ such players as:
–Ray Lewis. Pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double murder case. Never missed a game.
–Michael Vick. After 18 months in federal prison, played seven more NFL seasons for three teams.
–Plaxico Burress. Served 20 months in prison for a gun violation, returned for three more NFL seasons with two teams.
–Josh Brent. Convicted of intoxication manslaughter in an incident in which a teammate was killed, sentenced to 180 days in jail, returned to play for the Cowboys but quit after one game.
–Tank Johnson. Released by the Bears after at least three gun-related arrests and requiring a waiver from the court to leave Illinois to play in the Super Bowl. Later played for Dallas and Cincinnati.
–Johnny Jolly. Played for the Packers in 2013 after missing three seasons due to drug violations and prison time.
–Jamal Lewis. Served four months in federal prison on drug charges, served a four-game suspension while on injured reserve, so he didn’t miss games.
–Leonard Little. Served four years probation on a drunk driving charge for an accident that killed a woman. Suspended eight games, but then continued playing for the Rams.
–Donte Stallworth. Served 30 days in jail for DWI manslaughter. Suspended a full season; played afterward for the Ravens, Redskins and Patriots.
–Ray Rice. It took a second video of him hitting his fiancee in an elevator before there was much outrage over the slap on the wrist the league handed him.
–Michael Floyd. Served 24 days in jail on a DWI last year, currently with the Minnesota Vikings in training camp.
Presumably, all of them stood for the national anthem. Presumably, none of them made a big noise about social issues. Presumably, none of them seriously angered the conservatives who make up most of NFL ownership and apparently, a vocal part of the fan base.
This is, of course, the same league that is so bent on waving the flag that a check at a recent Super Bowl showed nearly three dozen souvenirs being sold at a league stand, and not a single one of them were made in the United States.
Yet Colin Kaepernick, who, as far as we know, never beat up or killed anyone in a drunken rage, never served time in prison, never did much of anything off the field except what is supposedly protected by the Constitution, can’t get a job in the NFL.
Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.