Now that the XFL has “launched” and signed coaches, it will soon begin the process of adding players, which lends itself to the obvious question: Will one of them be Colin Kaepernick?
There is no more famous, able, “active,” and unemployed football player these days than the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who has not played since the end of the 2016 season.
“We want to sign the 53 best players we can for a roster. People ask about Colin Kaepernick all the time,” new XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “If he is willing to play? Absolutely.”
There is a but.
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“As long as he abides by the policies that we have set for every other player,” Luck said. “I’m not going to make any exceptions for anybody.”
And there is your potential problem.
Per Luck, conduct during the national anthem will be included in the player contract. Since there is no player’s union to negotiate terms with the XFL, players will essentially have to agree to the rules of the work place as set by the league’s lawyers, and the league’s owner, Vince McMahon.
“Vince wants it in the player contracts that you have to stand for the national anthem,” Luck said. “It’s, ‘Colin, here it is. If you want to do it, if you are willing to do it, fine. If not, appreciate it and good luck. No hard feelings.’ That would be true for anybody.”
So, unlike the NFL, Kaepernick would have a shot to make an XFL roster, but to do so would mean he would have to surrender the very act that has basically defined his life, and made him an icon in America’s eternal struggle for equality.
Kaepernick has essentially been black-balled by the NFL, and all of its 32 teams, for taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. Actually, the NFL nor the team owners don’t care about him taking a knee. They care about the negative attention the protest created, and the affect it had on attendance and ratings.
The NFL fan has shown that it will tolerate a team signing running back Kareem Hunt, who was caught on video of assaulting a woman last year.
The NFL fan has shown it can tolerate the visual of Hunt kicking a woman. Fans are outraged, but will come back and watch.
The NFL fan has shown it cannot tolerate the visual of a player taking a knee during the Star Spangled Banner. Fans are outraged, and then did not watch.
Ever the businessman who recognizes what a star and a headline can do for a brand, WWE founder Vince McMahon also will acknowledge what the market can and cannot stand; enough paying customers want to see players stand.
A lot of white paying customers have shown they don’t want to see African-American players take a knee before a sporting event.
The XFL is scheduled to begin play in 2020 and will include a franchise that will play in Arlington.
Kaepernick playing would drive interest.
Even if adding Kaepernick would generate headlines and attention for the new league, McMahon will not take the risk that the 32 owners of the NFL franchises will not.
The “protest movement” started by Kaepernick eventually inspired other players to take to a knee during the national anthem. The act has mostly stopped but Kaepernick remains the one person who has been “punished.”
His former 49ers teammate, safety Eric Reid, also took to a knee in protest with Kaepernick during the ‘16 season. Reid became a free against after the ‘17 season, and went unsigned despite his proven ability to be a productive player.
Every time Reid was given a look, his stance on protesting scared teams away.
Reid eventually signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers four weeks into the 2018 season. This week, he agreed to a three-year deal with the Panthers for $22 million.
Colin Kaepernick, however, is done with the NFL. Not by choice. Every team in the league has signed quarterback after quarterback, and deliberately stayed away from him.
He has shown no interest in playing football outside of the NFL. He is 31, has not played a game since Jan. 1, 2017. Chances are high his career is over.
The XFL is receptive to Kaepernick playing in its league, provided he does not do the one thing that has made him an international icon.