The NFL’s collusion against Colin Kaepernick has moved from outrage to farce to a numbing frustration with the plutocratic right-wing cabal that owns the teams of the nation’s most popular sports league. Every week quarterbacks succumb to injury and scrap-heap players with a fraction of Kaepernick’s résumé are exhumed to take the field. People who care about political censorship grit their teeth, turn their heads, and endure. But the actions by the Washington R*dskins this week demand that we stop and reckon with what a cruel joke this has all become.
First Washington lost their starting quarterback Alex Smith to a gruesome leg injury. Then Smith’s backup, Colt McCoy, had his leg broken on Monday. In comes his replacement, someone who had been on the team for all of a week, football punchline Mark Sanchez—most famous for for the phrase “butt fumble.” Now the team needed a backup for Sanchez. Surely, with a 6-6 record and their playoff hopes slipping from owner Dan Snyder, they would at least inquire about Kaepernick.
Not so much. Coach Jay Gruden said that for “football reasons,” this would not be the case.
“He’s been discussed for sure. It’s just going to be a matter of which way you want to go,” said Gruden. “There’s not a lot of time to get a brand-new quarterback and system installed in a couple of days. He’s been talked about, but we’ll probably go in a different direction.”
When asked if the reasons for not signing Kaepernick were political, he cited these “football reasons” saying, “When you’re talking about a backup quarterback this late in the game you want someone with a similar skill set to the quarterback you have. Not that Colin can’t do some of the things we’ve talked about, but we want someone with a little more familiarity. Sanchez had experience in a pro-style offense. That helped out a lot. But when we had a short week going to Dallas [on Thanksgiving] you had to have someone in here who had some similar conceptual awareness that we had with Colt. That’s why we went with Sanchez.”
This reasoning is laughable. The last time Colin Kaepernick had to step in for a team whose game plan was designed for Alex Smith, he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Steven Ruiz at USA Today did a thorough, brutal and damn near humiliating debunking of the idea that Kaepernick could not run this particular offense. His piece was tweeted by Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid. Then, as the R*dskins continued to hem and haw about why they were choosing to leak away their season, the same excuses were trotted out on social media for reasons why Kaepernick wouldn’t be signed: “he doesn’t want to play”; “he couldn’t be in shape”; and the most egregious one, “he hasn’t thrown a pass since 2016.” That last excuse was particularly nauseating, because the player signed off from the graveyard of of forgotten quarterbacks to back up Sanchez is named Josh Johnson, who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2011. The truth, ignored by the access merchants in the sycophantic wing of the NFL’s media, is that Kaepernick is still working out six days a week and is in by all accounts “the best shape of his life.” That would be an odd lifestyle choice for someone done playing football.
The reality is that twisted brute Dan Snyder is willing to sacrifice a season that started with great promise to continue the league wide collusion against Kaepernick’s employment prospects. This isn’t something just for football fans in the DC area to give a damn about, but all people who believe that political expression should not cost a person their job at the height of their earning power.
I must admit, it would have been fascinating to see Kaepernick signed by a team adorned in a racist name rooted in settler colonialism, genocide and displacement. My guess is that he would have become the first person to criticize the name and call for it to be changed while wearing a R*dskins uniform. Several players have done so after the leaving the team, but dollars to donuts Kaepernick would have done it while donning the burgundy and gold. One can only wonder if that was a consideration for Snyder as well. When you have a racist, billion-dollar brand, nothing matters more than money.