The Big Mac Blog

Kaepernick case isn’t about race but NFL censorship

Ex S.F. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (middle) cost himself millions by taking a public stance against racial injustice in America. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Ex S.F. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (middle) cost himself millions by taking a public stance against racial injustice in America. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) AP

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had a change of heart and decided he no longer wants to play in the NFL. This comes after several months where it became apparent all 32 teams did not want Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL, either.

In short, Kaep is full of it. If a team had offered him a job with a seven- or six-figure salary he would have played ball, even on the bench. He would have been dumb not to, and this is not a dumb man.

Kaep’s famous taking of a knee is the ultimate paradox that he had no idea was coming: Kneeling during the national anthem gave his voice the pitch he desired but in the end crushed the platform he needed.

Naturally, Kaep’s plight is reduced to black and white. While I am a sucker for a good debate on racial inequality, it does not apply here as it relates to the NFL’s unwillingness to employ Kaep. Because, the last time I checked, Chris Kluwe is white.

You forgot Chris Kluwe? He was a good player for the Minnesota Vikings for eight seasons but was released in May of 2013 because, he felt, of his visible political stances toward same-sex equality and gay-rights marriage.

He was 31, had a career average of 44.4 yards per punt, and he never played in the NFL again.

As I skim Twitter, glance and read the commentary excoriating the 32 NFL teams for its unwillingness to give Kaep a job over some inferior white stiff who is just as mediocre, Kluwe’s case should be mentioned more frequently.


This was a good player speaking out on an issue who lost his job over a charged political stance. But you don’t care because he’s white. Because he’s talking about gays. Because he’s just a punter.

If there is outrage over the treatment of Kaep there should have been equal disgust over Kluwe.

Kluwe is white and Kaep is black and both had it handed it to them by The Man because they had the audacity to express his right to free speech. Neither condoned murder but merely the American ideal of equality, and here they sit — out of work in a profession they demonstrated they performed well enough to belong.

If both had “just kept his mouth shut” each would have a job. Call it NFL-sanctioned censorship if you prefer.

The NFL wants its players to be active in their communities and work on social issues, provided they come with a great photo op. Like a homeless shelter during Thanksgiving. Maybe finding a crying stray dog a home. Habitat for Humanity is always nice.

Speaking out about racial inequality? Police brutality? Gay rights? Now it’s “time to focus on football and not be a distraction to the other 52 men on this football team.”

Most employees sign a form or two, or 10, acknowledging if we violate the terms of our employment we will be summarily fired. All of us. White. Black. Red. Green. Gold.

Because the decision is not based on any colors other than green and white.

Kaep made a decision and these are the consequences. His football career is over and his next athletic stop will be as an ESPN “30 for 30.”

I respect, admire and appreciate him for exercising his right to free speech in an effort to shed light on a topic that continues to haunt America. I also have no sympathy for Kaep. He had to know losing his job was a possibility once he went viral.

The only way he was going to be able to keep his job and his voice was to be good enough on the field. He’s not. Teams will deal with a distraction if a player can play, but they magically cut the guy when he can’t. Teams cut punters because they can.

These are the realities of playing in the NFL. If you want that check, you play ball. If you are good at ball, you can say whatever you want. If you can’t play ball, be a quiet soldier or you’re going to get cut. Dance and deal with it or get out and get a real job.

Kaep’s better play would have been to steal as much cash as possible from the NFL, and then to use that power, leverage and visibility in a post-ball life, where being an activist can be a calling and a career instead of ending one.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof