Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL is now one for the record books, though no numbers have been reported. Such is the way with private settlements. My uncle said he probably got $40 million. I think he got at least twice that. The NFL isn’t merely buying his silence in a suit that he may well have won. They’re saying adios to an activist player.
I think Kaepernick’s lead attorney, Mark Geragos, was naive, in that braggadocio lawyerly way, to say that now that the suit is over, the league will come calling with a quarterback or backup QB job. The NFL is about making money. There are plenty of fans who are, unfortunately, turned off by Kaepernick’s activist stance on police brutality against people of color. The owners don’t want to lose those fans. Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t want to lose those fans. Even if Kap is silenced on the collusion settlement, he’s free to talk about his activism. His very presence is a symbol of his activism. His NFL career is over, and it was the day he left the San Francisco 49ers, because, let’s face it, he’s not stupid. He saw the writing on the wall. He jumped before he was pushed.
There are those who say that had he been that good, the NFL would’ve somehow found a place for him, that he only turned to activism to mask regressive football skills. Yet he was good enough to take his team to a Super Bowl. I think his so-called regression had more to do with the upheaval following Coach (and mentor) Jim Harbaugh’s departure.
Could a fit Kap nonetheless come back — after two years away from the gridiiron — the way Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have done time and again in tennis? Tennis is a far less physically bruising sport, though no less psychologically challenging, and the Big Three are acknowledged to be the best to date in a golden era of men’s tennis.
The sad truth is we will never know. Lawsuit settlements always have a woulda, coulda, shoulda aspect. Kaepernick might’ve bombed out. He might’ve been great. As it was, he was more than good enough.
But this is not — and perhaps never was — about football. Sometimes, a public career is but the means to another end. When Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor died, their movie careers were the first paragraph of their obituaries. But the second paragraph was their commitment to humanitarianism — Newman through his foundation and Hole in the Wall Gang camp for kids with cancer, Taylor through the millions she raised for AIDS research. Perhaps neither would’ve became so successful as humanitarians without the celebrity that came from the movies.
Sometimes a career is but a station on the way to something much greater.