Pearls & Vodka

It’s his right, and their’s too…

“If they take football away…I know that I stood for what is right.” – Colin Kaepernick

On February 3, 2013, Colin Kaepernick was under-center for the San Francisco 49ers in their first Super Bowl appearance since 1995. The 49ers took on the Baltimore Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 49ers were the favorite, by 4. Alicia Keys opened the game with a stunning rendition of the National Anthem and the halftime show featured Beyoncé along with the other former members of Destiny’s Child, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Over 71,000 football fans were in attendance that day. The Ravens ended up defeating the 49ers that night, 34-31, handing the 49ers their first Super Bowl loss in franchise history. [1]

There were other unique facts surrounding Super Bowl XLVII. For the first time in Super Bowl history, the game featured two brothers coaching against each other. Jim Harbaugh was, at the time, the head coach of the 49ers and the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens were coached by John Harbaugh. This historical fact led the game to be nicknamed the “Harbaugh Bowl.” It was also the first Super Bowl to feature two teams who had never lost a Super Bowl; the Ravens were 1-0 and the 49ers were 5-0. A sixth Super Bowl win that night would tie the 49ers with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl victories. The game also earned the name the “Blackout Bowl” due to the fact the power went out for 34 minutes in the third quarter. At the time of the partial power outage, the Ravens were up 28-6. After the break however, the 49ers came back and scored an unanswered, 17 points to close out the third quarter. [1]

The 49ers season began with Alex Smith at quarterback, unfortunately for him, he suffered a concussion forcing him to miss two starts mid-season. He was replaced in those two games by the second-year backup, Colin Kaepernick.

A fierce quarterback controversy ensued when Smith was healthy again. After all, he had the third highest passing rating in the NFL and led the league in completions. But Coach Jim Harbaugh had grown to love the dynamics of Kaepernick’s game with his ability to scramble and his arm strength. Harbaugh announced the decision was week-to-week, but Kaepernick became the starter. He led the team to an 11-4-1 record, throwing for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only 3 interceptions. Kaepernick’s arm earned him a 98.4 passer rating and his legs earned him 415 yards rushing and an additional 5 touchdowns. [1]

With names of NFL greats like: Tony Gonzalez, Warren Moon, Cris Carter, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Dick Butkus, and Barry Sanders who have never been to a Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick had achieved more already in his young career than these greats did, before retirement, by simply playing in the Super Bowl. [2]

Yet here we are today, with the NFL season underway, and Colin Kaepernick is unemployed.

Critics of the NFL and defenders of Kaepernick, have been quick to declare they believed his unemployment is do to a personal decision he made to kneel during the National Anthem before the games last season. While this obviously became a hot button topic during the 2016 season and beyond, there are some facts that many “talking heads” are forgetting.

Out of the 30 quarterbacks in the NFL, Colin Kaepernick finished 26th out of 30 in completion percentage after the 2016 season. This means that he was only completing 59.2% of his passes. His quarterback rating dropped to 55.2% as well. Students of the game of football will also point out that he was in the top 10 quarterbacks to be sacked the most often. He did rush for 2 touchdowns, but also fumbled nine times. He did complete 16 touchdown passes with only 4 interceptions, but he also only started 11 games. And to cap off Kaep’s season, he had a record of 1-10 as a starter, the worst in the NFL. [3]

It may not be a popular opinion to share, but I contend, if Tom Brady or Cam Newton began kneeling during the National Anthem before the Patriots or Panthers games, they would still be the starters in Foxborough and Charlotte. The reality is Colin Kaepernick turned down a backup offer because he believes he is still capable of earning “starter” money. I’m sorry Mr. Kaepernick, your stats don’t show you are a starter in the NFL anymore. If he were still showing the productivity and talent he did during the 2012-2013 season, this narrative would be different.

Supporters of Kaepernick will argue that there are plenty of guys starting in the NFL today who are also not at the talent level of Mr. Brady. And they are right. And there are honestly guys today who are backups on teams that have less talent than Colin Kaepernick. Teams like the Cleveland Browns, the Chicago Bears, the Houston Texans, the New York Jets, and even Kaep’s old team, the 49ers are playing with less than proven players under-center this season. The Miami Dolphins brought a lackluster Jay Culter out of retirement to take the helm of their team instead of going after Kaepernick. All that to say, I understand that there are some questions out there about decision making processes of these owners and coaches.

But the reality is, the NFL is a business, just like my company and many companies you readers work at. Management can hire and fire whoever they want to. Sure there are alleged processes and procedures in place, but at the end of the day if they want to hire you, or they want to fire you, anything can be spun to justify their actions. The same can be said for the NFL. If the Cleveland Browns’ owners don’t want to hire Colin Kaepernick because he knelt during the National Anthem last year, they have an easy cover up in that his productivity had dwindled and the talent was unproven and quite honestly, they need a miracle not a sub-par, struggling QB riddled with controversy.

I’m patriotic. I love this country. I bleed red, white and blue. I love the flag. I cherish and honor the men and women who have fought and died to defend her. I will always have a flag flying on my home. I will always put my hand over my heart during the National Anthem. And yes, I will always stand when the Anthem is played. I was raised this way. I was raised to honor the military members who defend our freedom and one of the symbolic ways I was taught to do that was to show that respect during the National Anthem.

I realize there are military veterans and active-duty members who have said they have no issue with what Mr. Kaepernick did last season. And if anyone has a right to that opinion, it is them, after all, they have fought for his right to do so. I however was raised by a career-Air Force man who is no longer with us, but if he were, would have had a serious problem with what Kaepernick did. Not only did my Dad hate the 49ers as a lifelong Cowboys fan, but he also disliked people being disrespectful to the nation he served and that National Anthem was something he cherished.

In an interview with the NFL media in August of 2016, Kaepernick explained his reasoning behind not standing during the National Anthem. He said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Chip Kelly was the coach of the 49ers at the time and he said it was Kaepernick’s “right as a citizen” to decide not to stand during the Anthem. And Coach Kelly was right, it was Kaep’s decision. Just like it is the decision of all these owners and coaches not to hire him.

Free will and free choice, they are tricky like that!

Kaepernick’s statement was not one against our military in intent, it was a stand against what he deemed as injustice against African Americans by some members of the Police force. Kaepernick has sense given a good deal of money away to organizations that are working to help better our country and improve the racial tensions, and for that he can and should be applauded. Again, that does not mean he should be hired in the NFL just for doing a good deed. He also made it public that he did not vote in the 2016 Presidential election and as I have contended before on this blog, you lose a lot of your right to complain to me when you don’t even vote. But nonetheless, again, his decision not to vote is not what is keeping him out of the NFL.

At the end of the day, the NFL is about ratings and making money. You don’t make money when you don’t play well. You don’t score high ratings when you lose all your games, folks just don’t tune in to watch you get beat week after week.

Sometimes your decisions can affect other facets of your life, whether that is right or wrong, or whether it feels fair or not.

Is Colin Kaepernick unemployed today because he knelt during the National Anthem? Not in my opinion. He is unemployed today, in my opinion, because his body of work does not warrant an NFL starting quarterback salary. Show Tom Brady talent, and you will make Tom Brady money Kaep!




Photo by Nicolas Barbier Garreau on Unsplash