A new NFL season just started as of this writing(Sept. 8th) and the NFL is dealing with the same problems they were last season.
Just like then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started during preseason last year(which spread as other players joined in), some players like the Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett and several Cleveland Browns players have taken it upon themselves to refuse to stand for The Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States, as a form of protest against what they perceive as racial inequality and injustice.
These protests may be different than Kaepernick's protest last year as the recent protests against the National Anthem could have been in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last month as opposed to showing solidarity for Colin Kaepernick. However, the NFL was still being criticized because none of the 32 teams have signed Kaepernick, who became a free agent after the 2016 season, leading to speculation that Kaepernick is being boycotted by the teams because of his politics. A chapter of the NAACP in Georgia tried to claim the NFL teams' refusal to sign Kaepernick is racially motivated(which makes them look delusional as roughly 70% of the league's players are black) and called for a boycott of all football games in the state of Georgia, even threatening to stop all football games from being played in the state until Kaepernick was signed by an NFL team. Well, that obviously didn't happen since college football games were played as scheduled, including two nationally televised games at the Atlanta Falcons' new stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, one on Sept. 2nd between Alabama & Florida State and the other on Sept. 4th between Tennessee & Georgia Tech.
The speculation about Kaepernick remaining unsigned stems initially from a story in Bleacher Report from March where an unnamed general manager of one of the NFL teams was quoted as saying that Kaepernick wasn't being signed by any of the teams because the teams were concerned about a potential backlash from the fans(i.e. fans boycotting games, cancelling their season tickets, etc.), even though Kaepernick has since reportedly dropped his protest and would stand for the National Anthem if he is signed to a team.
Thing is, the league did experience a significant backlash from fans when the corporate legacy tabloid trash mainstream news media picked up on Kaepernick's protest, particularly the conservative media outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars & conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, especially after it was reported that the NFL refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear a helmet sticker to honor the five Dallas police officers who were murdered by a racist black supremacist during a Black Lives Matter protest there the month before. That report made the NFL look like hypocrites who had taken a side in a complex, emotionally charged political issue by allowing Kaepernick and other players to refuse to stand for the National Anthem(for which the NBA suspended a player for in the mid-90s) while denying one of their teams' request to honor police officers murdered in the line of duty in that team's home city. As a result, the NFL's TV ratings fell more than 10%, even factoring in that last year was a Presidential election year.
The conservative news media blamed Kaepernick and other players' protests of the National Anthem for the NFL's ratings slide even though aside from the Thursday night opening kickoff game, the Super Bowl, and maybe the Thanksgiving Day games, the NFL's broadcast partners CBS, ESPN, Fox, & NBC usually doesn't show the National Anthem. In fact, according to Freezer from the NFL Fans Live Journal community, CBS was the only broadcast partner of the NFL that even mentioned when players knelt during the anthem during the games even though the other networks had no problem talking about Kaepernick and his protest for days on end.
Note: The networks did show the National Anthem for the early afternoon games Sept. 10th in rememberance of the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas & southwestern Louisiana and Hurricane Irma in Florida as that storm was bearing down on the state.
Also, TV ratings for the nationally televised preseason games this year hit all-time lows* and even the Super Bowl's ratings were down, but as I mentioned previously from one of Freezer's Week in Review posts, there were other factors into why ratings were down. which I'll reiterate here:
-Fewer people watching TV in general as more people are cutting the cable cord due to increasing prices of cable packages, leading to more people watching on the internet
-The NFL's promotion of DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package and the RedZone channel everywhere else
-Diminished quality of play as more players are leaving college earlier, fewer practices in college and the NFL leading to players lacking fundamentals, college teams running systems that aren't really compatable with the NFL, and the lack of a minor league to help marginal players learn the game(which the NFL had with NFL Europe)
-Rule changes that put so much emphasis on the passing game to the point where a team can't win consistently without elite players at quarterback, left offensive tackle, cornerback, and either defensive end or outside linebacker, as well as the college teams abandoning traditional running back friendly offenses for spread offenses
-Adding Thursday night games(which were originally meant to showcase the NFL Network, but now they're working with CBS and NBC) where the teams have only two days at best to prepare for the game
-Did I mention it was a Presidential election year and ratings tended to dip until after the election?
The Super Bowl's ratings took a hit mainly because people started tuning out as the game looked like it was going to be a blowout victory for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons had a 28-3 lead late in the 3rd quarter before the New England Patriots rallied to win 34-28 in overtime(the first time in the Super Bowl's history that the game went to overtime).
The speculation over Kaepernick increased during training camp and the preseason as teams started to find themselves looking for a quarterback due to injuries. The Miami Dolphins lost starting QB Ryan Tannehill for the season and chose to sign former Denver Broncos & Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler. Tim Tebow(who is currently playing baseball in the New York Mets' minor league system) & Peyton Manning(who retired after winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos) were apparently also considered before Kaepernick. But Kaepernick probably was never even considered because he wore a T-shirt depicting Fidel Castro during a press conference last year, which I'm sure endeared Kaepernick to the Cuban-American community in South Florida.
But the main reason Colin Kaepernick is not currrently on an NFL team right now is not because of his race or even 100% because of the backlash against him & his protest last year. And, no, it's not because the NFL teams are afraid of getting a nasty tweet on Twitter from President Donald Trump as Trump claimed in a rally in Louisville in March.
It's because the San Francisco 49ers went from three straight NFC Championship Game appearances from 2011-2013 and a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 to the NFL cellar in the last two years. Since their loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFC title game, the 49ers have gone 8-8, 5-11, and 2-14 in the last three seasons. Yes, the 49ers have had three different head coaches during that time frame(Jim Harbaugh in 2014**, Jim Tomsula in 2015, and Chip Kelly last year; the Niners hired Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after the Super Bowl), but if Kaepernick is supposed to be a talented QB, the 49ers would have done better than 2-14 last year(with both wins coming against the LA Rams), especially with an offensive minded coach like Chip Kelly. And Kaepernick wouldn't have lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, who has the worst winning percentage as a starting QB in NFL history between his time with the 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Also, when Kaepernick got back the starting job for their Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints after a 1-6 start(which the Saints won 41-23), the Niners only won one more game the rest of the year. As a starting QB the last two years, Kaepernick is 3-16 in his last 19 starts. And also when Kaepernick first became starting QB halfway through the 2012 season after starter Alex Smith(who was traded after that season to the Kansas City Chiefs) suffered a concussion, the 49ers had a lights out defense helping them win games.
It's also because Kaepernick has now become too much of a media distraction for the team that signs him, if a team does sign him. He's become arguably bigger than the game or at least being made that way mainly by ESPN, but it's not because he's good at throwing a football, it's because of his response to a highly-charged political issue. And teams & in particular, coaches, generally don't like it when players become a distraction. Even if he wasn't necessarily doing anything wrong with his protest. The coaches don't want to talk about him, they want to focus on the team they're preparing to play on Sunday or Monday. Jay Glazer made a great point on Fox NFL Sunday that the media circus has become bigger than Kaepernick's skill level. Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher made a similar point on CBS' The NFL Today when talking about Kaepernick meeting with the Seattle Seahawks and the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason, wondering if the media attention has become more important in Kaepernick's mind than working to become a better football player.
Another possible reason Kaepernick hasn't been signed by an NFL team is that he could be asking for too much money to basically be a backup QB.
And one more possible reason, although this could be going into conspiracy theory territory, is that the NFL and the teams could be protecting Kaepernick for his own safety, off the field and maybe even on the field. Considering how territorial people have become with their political opinions & how polarizingly divided our nation has become over those opinions, maybe the NFL doesn't want to risk Kaepernick getting hurt whether it's by a crazy fan or even other NFL players that may disagree with the players protesting the National Anthem, but won't openly admit it out of fear of losing their job. Even with all the security measures the NFL and local law enforcement has in place at the stadiums on game day, fans still do try to get on the field. Maybe the NFL doesn't want to risk Bountygate 2.0.
At the end of the day, the main reason Kaepernick got such a backlash was because of how he chose to protest against racial inequality & police brutality even if his method of protest is just as legal as burning the American flag regardless of it being peaceful. The National Anthem of any nation is supposed to bring the people of that nation together as both a reflection of pride in that nation(especially during the Olympic Games or the World Cup) and respect for the people that died fighting for that nation. Even if it wasn't the intention of Kaepernick or any other player, their refusal to stand for the National Anthem was seen as not only disrespecting the military(even if some American soldiers did side with Kaepernick), but it also shows disrespect to every American citizen whether they agreed with Kaepernick and the other players or not, and shows disrespect for the United States of America and everything that is good about our country.
Point is, there probably wouldn't be as much controversy over Kaepernick and the other players had they chosen a different way to draw attention to their cause than protesting the National Anthem. Or if the NFL would have allowed the Cowboys to wear the helmet sticker memorializing the fallen police officers. As Scoot in the Afternoon posted in his blog on WWL.com, "Everyone has the right to protest the National Anthem, but anyone who does so also shows a lack of respect for America in general. We should be able to agree that we can disagree, but still show respect for the America we hope will shine brighter."
America isn't a perfect nation. No nation is or ever will be. But if we're being honest with ourselves and removed all our biases and our politics, America's the closest to being that perfect nation.
*-But let's be honest, it's preseason. It's basically four or five glorified scrimmages where the back-ups get their chance to shine while coaches look for diamonds in the rough that got overlooked during the draft amongst the marginal guys trying to make the final 53 man roster or the practice squad.
**-Harbaugh butted heads with the 49ers' front office and ended up taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, after the 2014 season.
One last postscript: Freezer pointed out in another Week in Review that Detroit Tigers baseball players Chet Lemon & Lou Whitaker(who are black) didn't stand for the National Anthem due to their being Jehovah's Witnesses. However, I don't think there's much of a comparison. Lemon & Whitaker didn't stand for the anthem for religious reasons(and probably got permission from Major League Baseball because of their religion; don't know if MLB has a rule requiring players to stand for the national anthems of USA and Canada like the NBA does) while the reasons for Kaepernick and the other players are politically motivated. Also, while Kaepernick reportedly has converted to Islam, he's never once mentioned religion as a reason for his initial protest, at least to my knowledge.