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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Players know that keeping Kaepernick out is a message

By Matthew Coller

Shortly after Colin Kaepernick’s protest became the biggest sports story in the NFL, I asked one player, on the record, how he felt about what the San Francisco 49ers quarterback was doing. He elected to stick to football.

Later, I discussed the same issue with that player off the record. I’ll keep his exact thoughts confidential, but he said that he was going to avoid any type of political discussion because he was concerned about the attention – and potential repercussion – that it would bring.

When guard Alex Boone slammed Kaepernick’s protest, it was clear he felt no such concern.

Boone called his former teammates kneeldown during the national anthem “shameful” and said, “We probably would have had a problem on the sideline.”

His comments didn’t make a blip on the 24-hour newscycle radar.

Boone is entitled to that opinion. His brother is a marine. But the lack reaction to his thoughts juxtapositioned with another player being wary of giving his opinion was striking.

Now that Kaepernick is a free agent and teams are signing unquestionably worse quarterbacks like Josh McCown to $6 million contracts, the message is as easy to see for players as the stars on a football field-sized flag: Don’t even think about using the NFL as a platform to talk about social issues.

Since the conversation kicked into high gear when Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported that some GMs “legitimately hate” Kaepernick over his demonstration, you’ve heard over and over that he isn’t a good enough quarterback to justify his baggage and that it’s teams’ right to choose who they employ. Well, the latter part of that is true, but the former is not.

That implies that teams will only sign players who might bring negative attention if those players are far above average on the field, like top running back prospect Joe Mixon, who punched a woman and broke her jaw, on tape, in 2014 and will most certainly be drafted. But that’s not true. The Buffalo Bills picked running back Karlos Williams in 2015 after he was accused of hitting his pregnant girlfriend. He was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill running back who had a few good games as a backup, then washed out because he didn’t seem to care about staying in shape.

The Bills also signed Brandon Spikes, a mediocre run-stuffing linebacker who had been out of the league after a hit-and-run incident. And guard Richie Incognito, who was cut by the Dolphins after a bullying incident that included racist text messages. Incognito turned out to be very good but at the time, he was just another guard.

There are all sorts of examples like him of replaceable players with loads of baggage getting chances. Atlanta drafted linebacker Prince Shembo in the fourth round after he was accused of sexual assault in college. He was far from the next Lawrence Taylor, yet the team didn’t run away screaming. Shembo was eventually cut for killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog. Maybe those players didn’t bring along tweets from the president, but they were a black eye on the team’s reputation.

Kaepernick has been compared to Tim Tebow in terms of attention (and joblessness), but Tebow was given multiple chances by teams as a backup. He was in Philadelphia Eagles camp after being let go by the Jets. And he was really bad. Kaepernick is not really bad. You can’t really apply Ray Rice’s situation in comparison either. Yes, he would have a job if he was good but he wouldn’t have to be great. If Rice was the 25th best running back, he’d be in the league but he was one of the NFL’s worst the year he was suspended for punching his wife in an Atlantic City nightclub.

Teams won’t risk it for terrible players but they routinely do for helpful ones.

Unless they are trying to send a message. The league clearly doesn’t want to become like the NBA, where players speaking their minds has become common place. That isn’t the NFL’s culture. Just think about the New England Patriots’ famous motto “Do Your Job.” That doesn’t exactly scream individuality. Anyone who’s spent time in an NFL locker room knows that players aren’t exactly encouraged to be candid, even when it comes to talking about the game, opponents, plays etc. Sometimes you feel you’re asking James Bond to reveal the secrets of English intelligence.

And the leaders of NFL teams don’t want this to change. Be happy to be here, make some money and zip it. If those at the top reward Kaepernick, they will feel like they’re signing on to giving power to the players. Signing onto more individuality and more voice for players is not something the NFL wants to do.

They also want to send a message to their fans that they are sticking to sports, not endorsing a stance that will make 37% of their fan base angry.

Whether teams are doing the right thing by taking this stance, you can decide that for yourself, but if nobody signs Kaepernick, it won’t be about baggage, it will be a signal as loud as the front row at a Metallica concert that speaking out isn’t welcome. And so far, even by keeping him away from a job this long, you could say it’s mission accomplished.

The post Players know that keeping Kaepernick out is a message appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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