The NFL’s Hail Mary hope that it could get Colin Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against the league and team owners tossed off the field has floundered with a week to go before the new season kicks-off.
In what can only be viewed as the legal equivalent of a touchdown for the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and instigator of protests by players over social injustice in America, the league and NFL Players Association appointed arbitrator has rejected the Roger Goodell led organization’s attempt to have Kaepernick’s case dismissed.
The news was revealed today when Kaepernick’s lawyer Mark Geragos posted a short statement from the arbitrator online:
— Mark Geragos (@markgeragos) August 30, 2018
While they were awfully chatty earlier today about how the networks would have to figure out how to deal with potential controversies over the playing of the National Anthem on TV and players taking a knee or not, the NFL told Deadline they would “decline comment” on the denial, according to spokesman Brian McCarthy.
The controversy over players taking a knee or using another form of protest during the National Anthem was widely cited as one of the reasons the NFL and big bucks paying networks took a ratings hit last season.
The multi-year playing, now much honored and forthright Kaepernick filed his grievance against the NFL last fall after several months of free agency that saw not a single one of the 32 teams in the league offering the 49ers 2013 Super Bowl quarterback a contract. The NFL denied that any blackballing had occurred and earlier this summer pushed to see if there was even enough evidence for the matter to go forward – as it clearly is now, unless the parties settle out of court.
Starting in a pre-season game in late August 2016, Kaepernick remained on the bench during the playing of ‘The Star Spangled-Banner.’ The QB did not make a big stance about his actions at the time and, in fact, it was mainly noticed due to an unrelated photo posted on social media.
“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 explained when queried about his actions after the 49ers’ August 26, 2016 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” the QB added, noting he had done the same thing in the first two pre-season games that year but wasn’t dressed for play on those occasions. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
“In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem,” the 49ers said in an evenhanded statement of their own. “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem,” added the then rather placid NFL itself.
In the next pre-season match up, Kaepernick took a knee for the first time. He later said was a shift to show respect to current and former members of the U.S. military.
As other players joined in, with many citing a link to the Black Lives Matter movement, a backlash developed among some fans and others who saw the protests as an affront. Those critics, which came to include some team owners and the current POTUS, often centered on the National Anthem and not the underlying social inequality that Kaepernick was focused on.
As President Donald Trump jumped into the fray and began to use the issue as a political football, the NFL not only seemed to keep Kaepernick off the field but instituted a no protest policy. Made public in late May in what seemed a straight up pandering to Trump and the power of his Twitter feed, the league plan included fines for protesting players. That didn’t stand up long as the Players Association in June started making rumblings about taking the NFL to court over the plan, which they were never consulted on.
By July, much to the continuing anger of President Trump, the policy was suspended. Despite the still Rupert Murdoch owned Fox broadcasting Thursday Night Football this year and ongoing concerns about stumbling ratings, the non-policy looks certain not be enforced in the forthcoming season, at least the pre-season and early games as talks between the league and the NFLPA continue.
After several weeks of pre-season games, the 2018/2019 NFL season formally begins on September 6 with the current Super Bowl champs the Philadelphia Eagles v. the Atlanta Falcons on NBC.
BTW, Kaepernick is not the only player to have such a grievance against the NFL. He’s actually not even the only ex-49er. Currently unsigned safety Eric Reid, who joined with Kaepernick in his actions, is also hauling the league into court – double play.