Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is planning to file a collusion grievance against NFL owners under the collective bargaining agreement, a source close to Kaepernick told USA Today’s Mike Jones.
On Sunday afternoon, Jones tweeted that he could confirm that Kaepernick has hired his own attorney to represent him in the matter.
Jones said that his source spoke on anonymity, stating that Kaepernick did not file the grievance with the help of the NFL Players Association, but that the organization plans to support him on the issue.
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Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers following the end of the 2016-2017 season.
At the time 49ers management said it would have released Kaepernick rather than retaining him under the terms of the deal he had in place. Since then, Kaepernick has remained out of work, being passed over by several teams in favor of other quarterbacks.
Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games last season as a protest of the treatment of African-Americans by police in the United States.
Under CBA rules, teams are prohibited from acting in concert to make decisions about a player’s employment or contract status.
“No Club, its employees or agents shall enter into any agreement, express or implied, with the NFL or any other Club, its employees or agents to restrict or limit individual Club decision-making,” the CBA says, adding that applies to “whether to negotiate or not to negotiate with any player” and “whether to offer or not to offer a Player Contract to any player,” among other things.
However, his case might be difficult to prove because under the CBA, the mere fact that a player is unsigned does not constitute evidence of collusion.
“The failure by a Club or Clubs to negotiate, to submit Offer Sheets, or to sign contracts with Restricted Free Agents or Transition Players, or to negotiate, make offers, or sign contracts for the playing services of such players or Unrestricted Free Agents, shall not, by itself or in combination only with evidence about the playing skills of the player(s) not receiving any such offer or contract, satisfy the burden of proof set forth ... above,” the CBA says.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other owners have said that Kaepernick was not being blackballed from the league and that each team made individual decisions about whether signing him made sense for them.
Two teams, the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens, publicly considered signing Kaepernick this off-season but decided not to.
The Kaepernick story subsided until President Donald Trump made it a more prominent issue in late September. During a rally in Alabama he ripped NFL players for kneeling during the anthem and cited it as a reason for the league’s lower TV ratings.
Trump said, “Any sons of b------ who kneel during the anthem should be fired.”
That sparked a huge national conversation about whether players should kneel or stand for the anthem. On the next weekend of games, hundreds of players took a knee, locked arms, refused to leave the locker room or held up a fist in protest.
The Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones locked arms and took a knee as a “show of unity” before the anthem on Monday Night Football, but then stood as their arms remain locked during the performance.
Two weeks later, the protest had tapered off until Vice President Mike Pence quickly left the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers game on Oct. 8 after seeing a handful of 49ers players kneel during the anthem. The same day, Cowboys defensive linemen David Irving and Damontre Moore raised their fists at the end of the anthem before a game against the Green Bay Packers.
Following the incident, Jones became the first NFL owner to go on record about disciplining players for protesting during the anthem.
“If there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period,” Jones said.
Jones later decided against disciplining the players for their protest.
Now, NFL owners are expected to discuss the league’s policy regarding the anthem during meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday in New York.
Currently the NFL game operations manual says players “should” stand for the national anthem. Changing the “should” to “must” is an option the owners and league could discuss.
As for Kaepernick, it remains to be seen if he’ll land another NFL job this season.
Notably, the Green Bay Packers could be looking for help after losing All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday to a broken collarbone. Rodgers could be out the rest of the season.