Is the NFL 'Blackballing' Colin Kaepernick?

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a name for himself not through his play on the field but through his political gestures on the sidelines. Now a former college teammate is suggesting that the NFL is “blackballing” Kaepernick for his refusal to stand during the national anthem. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall in an interview with The Denver Post suggested that as the reason no team has yet signed Kaepernick for the upcoming season. Marshall was one of the other NFL players who followed Kaepernick’s lead and used the national anthem as a vehicle for protesting.

Marshall, who signed a four-year contract extension last offseason, said it was important to him to follow his protests with action. So he did.

Kaepernick did, too, donating millions of dollars to charities nationwide. But he opted out of his contract at season’s end and now, nearly two months into free agency, is still in search of work. Some argue he’s been “blackballed” by NFL owners because of his protests. Others say football-related factors — including scheme, style of play and contract demands — have all contributed to his unemployment.

Marshall is firmly with the first group and made his position clear a couple of weeks ago with a Tweet that read: “It’s time my Brother @Kaepernick7 gets signed. He’s better than every QB that got signed in Free agency.”

“Quarterbacks are usually the face of the franchise. So, he’s probably being blackballed,” Marshall said Tuesday. “Maybe part of it is owners don’t want their franchise tagged with that. But I still stand by what I said (on Twitter), that he’s the best quarterback in free agency. He’s better than all of those that got signed, the Matt Barkleys, the Nick Foleses. I think that’s a fair assessment, honestly.”

I think Marshall is either contradicting himself or he misunderstands the meaning of “blackballed.” That word implies some sort of secret agreement is at work among the NFL team owners to unjustly keep Kaepernick off the field. I suppose that’s possible, but the primary motivations of any NFL franchise are making money and winning. The league is full of examples of players with drug problems, violent criminal records, domestic abuse issues and other baggage who were nevertheless welcomed by teams who thought those players could help them win. But within the chest of every social justice warrior beats the heart of a conspiracy theorist, so .

Marshall did get one thing right though. Quarterbacks tend to be the “face of the franchise,” so most likely teams are simply weighing Kaepernick’s on field potential against the risk he poses for public relations.  It’s unlikely that there is any organized effort to keep him from playing. By choosing to use his former team and the NFL as his political soapbox, Kaepernick simply made himself less marketable. Act like a jerk and people may not want to hire you as the face of their organization.

Actions have consequences. He chose to make a big public statement that got him a lot of negative attention nationally. He could have opted for other methods of protest but he didn’t. He chose one that offended a lot of people. If he doesn’t get picked up by a team, he’s got no one to blame but himself.