Why the American People Need to Know What Colin Kaepernick Has on the NFL
At Least Some of What Happened in Kaepernick’s Collusion Grievance against the NFL Needs to be in the Public Record
Colin Kaepernick had a big week last week. As, his attorney, Mark Geragos, announced on Friday, he and Eric Reid settled their collusion grievances against the NFL. The terms of the agreements are sealed tightly, and all parties have signed nondisclosure agreements, the terms of which, I’m sure are onerous. Respected NFL reporter, Mike Freeman shared on Twitter that sources in NFL front offices estimated that Kaepernick received somewhere in the range of 60 to 80 million dollars. In exchange, Kaepernick withdrew his grievance. Neither the league nor any of the teams has admitted culpability. Nevertheless, this is a clear victory for Kaepernick, and if rumors of the size of his payment are true, that’s a pretty big indication that his lawyers had found the goods. The NFL isn’t in the business of backing down to a single player. They usually kill all the livestock, burn all the crops, and salt the earth. The players are the ones who cry out, “Uncle!” This was a capitulation on the league’s part — a huge L. Anyone who says otherwise is carrying water for them or letting the animus they feel towards Kaepernick cloud their judgment.
I wasn’t surprised by the settlement. I’m surprised it hadn’t happened earlier. Anyone who’s shocked by the outcome has selective amnesia about the vitriolic manner in which Kaepernick was discussed by NFL executives when his protest started. In August 2016, pretty much immediately after Kaepernick began his protest, seven anonymous NFL executives went on the record with Freeman and described a white-hot hatred for Kaepernick in front offices one of the sources said he’d only seen rivalled by that displayed towards Ray Carruth. To refresh your recollection, Carruth orchestrated and participated in the murder of Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with his child at the time. The baby survived and was permanently disabled by the attack. I found the comparison of Kaepernick to Carruth incredibly offensive and the emotional incontinence that was the source of it borderline hysterical.
The recklessness of the loose talk about Kaepernick was the biggest sign to me that there was very likely a paper trail that was quite damning. Remember, the first few months of Kaepernick’s protest coincided with the tail end of the brutal 2016 Presidential election contest. Kaepernick and his protest became (and remain) political footballs. On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On November 9, MAGA devotees jumped out the window. They felt they’d “taken America back” and were randomly accosting strangers, including Black baristas minding their own business in Starbucks, to tell them so. I think some of the windows that got jumped out of were in NFL front offices, and their most obvious target would have been Kaepernick. The President was behind them. What could a single player do to fight back? We don’t have to think too long or hard about what kind of language was being used by conservative White men to describe a young, Black man who was refusing to do as he was told. There was a paper trail, and it was a mess.
The bright orange elephant in the middle of all of this that keeps getting ignored is the President. He is an integral part of all this. Every time Geragos discusses the case, he brings up President Trump having bullied and cowed the owners. A line from Kaepernick’s request for arbitration reads, “[The NFL and NFL team owners] have retaliated against Mr. Kaepernick in response to coercion and calculated coordination from the Executive Branch of the United States government.” [Emphasis added.] This is an incredibly serious allegation that keeps being glossed over for some reason. Geragos has never wavered from this position. Do you remember the exchange on Twitter between Vice President Pence and Geragos after the NFL passed its short-lived “Kaepernick Policy” requiring players to stand during the national anthem? Pence tweeted out a CNN article reporting the policy with the hashtag #Winning. In response, Geragos tweeted “Winning!” with a link to the section of the U.S. Code that outlaws government employees from interfering in the employment decisions of private entities.
Did anything Geragos and his team turned up during discovery provide evidence that the Trump administration coerced the NFL owners into blackballing Kaepernick? If they did, does it show that members of the Trump administration, or even the President himself, broke the law? How co-ordinated was any such effort? Who was involved? The President? The Vice President? Anyone else? These aren’t frivolous questions about a private matter that a check to the wronged person can sweep under the rug. They also aren’t being pulled out of thin air. Let’s not forget that Trump’s inaugural committee is under federal criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York, in part for pay for play. Donors are suspected of paying for access to the administration. As reported by Michael McCann in Sports Illustrated, the following NFL owners contributed to President Trump’s inaugural committee:
Cleveland Browns: Jimmy Haslam, $100,000. Pilot Travel Centers LLC, of which Haslam is CEO, $300,000
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones (contribution made by Glenstone Limited Partnership, of which Jones is president), $1 million
Houston Texans: Robert McNair, $1 million
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shahid Khan, $1 million
Los Angeles Rams: Stan Kroenke, $1 million
New England Patriots: Robert Kraft (contribution made by Kraft Group LLC, of which Kraft is chairman and CEO), $1 million
New York Jets: Woody Johnson, $1 million
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edward Glazer, $250,000
Washington Redskins: Daniel Snyder, $1 million
Donations of that size, even if they don’t cross the line into corruption, are made to curry favor. President Trump’s relationship with the NFL has been a contentious one, though, so the money obviously didn’t grease the skids as much as the owners who contributed hoped it would. The player protests became a point of negotiation. As reported by Eli Rosenberg in The Washington Post, in a deposition, Dallas Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, testified that President Trump told him on a phone call that the player protests were “a very winning, strong issue for me.” According to Jones, the President also said, “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.” Miami Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, who had been supportive of the protests initially, testified that the President weighing in changed his position. This is what we know. What about what we don’t know? How far did the strong-arming by the President go?
Kaepernick has taken this as far as he can. The nature of the arbitration process means that even if Kaepernick had won his case outright instead of settling, it’s unlikely that many of the details would have been made public. The only way the American people will ever know the extent of the interference of the Executive Branch in Kaepernick’s blackballing is if someone with a badge takes up the task of turning over the rocks and seeing what slithers out. It’s of course possible that this is all being done very quietly.
I know none of this is as sexy as Russiagate. We won’t get to use the word “dossier” or discuss secret meetings in Prague. Nevertheless, if the President used the power of his office to spearhead an effort to have private entities collude to deny a qualified worker employment in retaliation for staging a peaceful protest, that’s a serious matter that shouldn’t be brushed off because it lacks the cloak and dagger theatrics.
I’ll be writing more in the coming weeks about reasons evidence gathered in Kaepernick’s collusion grievance is a matter of public interest. I’ll also explore possible ways for the information the NFL is trying to keep secret to be ferreted out and made public. And, yes, they’ll probably all involve putting the feds on people.