With the NFL regular season just days away, hopes are high the Broncos will finally turn things around this year after a long slump since the glory days. New committed ownership with deep pockets, a new proven winner as head coach who has authoritatively taken charge, and a number of impressive player acquisitions during the off season are all encouraging. The biggest question mark is quarterback Russel Wilson who had the worst season of his career last year. Wilson is also a proven winner and had seemed destined to the Hall of Fame. In his defense, the Broncos were crushed with injuries to key players throughout the roster last year, especially in the offensive line which gave Wilson little protection. Will Wilson be the comeback player of the year and take the Broncos to the playoffs?
And who should be the back-up QB? I’ve got a long-shot candidate with plenty of experience who may surprise you. You’ll need to sit down; this will be a shock. Drum roll, please… How about Colin Kaepernick?
Quit rolling your eyes. I was only kidding. And this column isn’t really about the Broncos. That was just a tease. It’s about Kaepernick who recently posted a video pretentiously touting his creds to return to the NFL as a quarterback, which he’s been doing annually since his NFL career ended in 2016.
Let’s play a game of pro football word association with the first thought that comes to mind. If I say “Elway,” you might say “The Drive,” taking the Broncos 98 yards down the field in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of the 1986 AFC Championship game to score a game-tying touchdown against the Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. (The Broncos won the game in overtime with a 33-yard field goal.)
When you hear the name “Kaepernick,” I’d bet the standout career memory that pops up for most isn’t a football highlight, but his refusal to stand for the national anthem, kneeling on the sidelines before games in 2016 in a theatrical protest about racism. That kicked off repetitions of this behavior by other players for much of the season, triggering a backlash against the NFL from many fans before it ran its course.
That turned out to be Kaepernick’s last NFL season. He claimed the league secretly colluded to blackball him for his political views. The NFL is a business, and it’s not unlikely that some teams might be reluctant to sign a divisive player who offends and antagonizes its fans and even some of its players. On the other hand, it’s not as if Kaepernick was an all-star QB in high demand for his skills. In his last two years in the league with the San Francisco 49ers he won 3 games and lost 16. He’s now almost 36 and hasn’t played for 7 years.
Kaepernick didn’t exactly wind up in the poor house. He settled his grievance with the NFL out of court for an undisclosed amount, presumably in the millions. And he turned his rejection by the league into a financial opportunity, getting a multi-million dollar extension of his Nike endorsement contract. The celebrity status he won with his anti-national anthem performance led to a post-football career as an outspoken anti-racism activist.
More than just controversial, his views are often absurd, like publicly calling for abolishing the police and prisons. In 2021, he compared the NFL draft to a slave auction, “Before they put you on the field, teams poke, prod and examine you search for any defect that might affect your performance.” Well, my doctor pokes and prods me every year at my annual physical, to say nothing of his prostate exploration. No college player is forced to enter the draft or is indentured to a team. Knowledge of a player’s physical health and ability is essential to his evaluation by a potential employer and a preliminary step toward a multi-million contract offer. White players as well as blacks get the same treatment.
Black racial activists are especially sensitive to job discrimination. When the percentage of blacks in a particular field is less than their percentage of the overall population, “implicit” racial discrimination is instantly suspect. Conniving whites might claim that’s the practice of the NFL, where black players dominate. But that claim would be preposterous. Ability and merit is the overriding standard of employment in the league, where winning is the ultimate goal. It just so happens that blacks disproportionally win out, for whatever reasons, over whites in the open competition for jobs in this profession.
That should be food for thought for certain radical woke activists who declare that “meritocracy” is an anti-black scheme devised by white supremacists.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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