Yesterday, the NFLPA announced that it is filing a grievance on behalf of Eric Reid, alleging that he remains unsigned because of his protests against police brutality that began alongside his friend and former teammate, Colin Kaepernick.
While I’m glad the NFLPA has taken this step, anyone who is lauding them with praise for doing so can miss me from now until the heat death of the universe. They’re not getting a slap on the back from me, not after they’ve left Colin Kaepernick twisting in the wind for so long.
If you haven’t already, take a gander at Colin Kaepernick’s request for arbitration. (It’s only seven pages long; the rest is service of process details). It’s clear that many who have strong opinions about the case either haven’t read the document or have failed to ruminate over its contents.
Here is what Kaepernick’s legal team alleges:
“During the 2017 NFL season and continuing to the present, the NFL, by and through all NFL team owners, NFL employees, and team employees, have entered into and enforced, implied and/or express agreements to specifically deprive Claimant Colin Kaepernick from employment in the NFL, as well as from practicing with and/or trying out for NFL teams for which Mr. Kaepernick is eminently qualified.”
Whatever, you think of Kaepernick’s protest, really consider what it means if this is true. Also consider that while all this has been unfolding, Kaepernick’s union leadership has done little more than hem and haw and wring their hands. Just the hint that such an allegation might be true should have had the NFLPA putting some bass in their voices ages ago, because of how damaging allowing such a precedent to be set would be to their members’ interests.
There was so much smoke that presuming there was a fire would have been reasonable, but the union allowed NFL ownership to frame the terms of the debate and divide and conquer them. That and during the two off-seasons since Kaepernick last played, the contracts kept getting fatter, and some players now have fully guaranteed deals. This may have happened anyway, but it’s awfully convenient that this largesse coincided with the players’ union choosing to stand on the sidelines during ownership’s contentious dispute with an aggrieved player.
Kaepernick’s quarrel with the NFL has always been a labor dispute, but the media refusing to properly frame his protest as one against police violence muddied the waters and gave the NFLPA room to cower in a corner. For all the talk of the brotherly bonds forged in gladiatorial combat, the NFLPA did precious little to stand behind Colin Kaepernick, and they allowed him to be vilified. To quote Eric Reid’s statements during the secretly recorded meeting between players and ownership, the league — owners and players — “let Colin become public enemy number one.”
So, what has changed?
Consider this statement Ben Meiselas, one of Kaepernick’s attorneys, made to The Daily Pennsylvanian in February:
“My review of the documents [turned over to us by the NFL] makes me a pessimist of people being good and doing the right thing,” [Meiselas] said. “Though I am extra confident after reviewing the records that Mr. Kaepernick is going to get justice through these proceedings. It reflects a very nasty time period that we live in.”
Discovery turned something up (like sensible people knew it would). Something nasty. Something that made Eric Reid feel confident enough to file a grievance before free agency ends. Something that has the NFLPA jumping on board. And that something was turned up by the legal team a jobless Colin Kaepernick is footing the bill for. This something will be leveraged to benefit not only Colin Kaepernick but every player in the league now and every player who will come after.
Colin Kaepernick is being used as a mule by a union of multi-millionaires, a union of multi-millionaires that has not supported him the way he deserves, and it is disgraceful.
I look forward with interest to seeing how this all unfolds. Given the sordid history of inexcusably corrupt behavior that runs rife throughout the NFL, I’m unwilling to buy into the notion that NFL owners and management are “too smart” to have left a trail of evidence showing they colluded against Colin Kaepernick. These are the same men who flesh-peddle their teams’ cheerleaders, steal these women’s wages, and feel comfortable handing out written instructions on how women in their employ should wash their vaginas. The NFL is filled to the rafters with overgrown, immature frat boys who think they can get away with anything. That is going to be their downfall.
(Please avoid the urge to make the same “not on the job” and “he’s a distraction” comments we’ve all had to endure since this whole thing started. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are in a union, one that negotiated a 300-plus-page collective bargaining agreement with their potential employers. So, no, the owners don’t have free rein; they’ve agreed to have their powers to hire and fire limited. Having to remove this much context to make an argument makes it look like you don’t have one.)