Colin Kaepernick did something that Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott, and the United States Football League all failed to do. He took the NFL to court and won.
Okay, maybe he didn’t technically win a court case. There was no ruling. The NFL has not been found under the law to have conspired to keep Colin Kaepernick out of a job. Technically, the NFL can still claim innocence.
But it is very difficult to make a convincing argument that the NFL won. Kaepernick, along with Eric Reid, agreed to a settlement with the league. According to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, the settlement was for $60 to $80 million.
That’s a lot of money. The Pittsburgh Steelers will probably lose star running back Le’Veon Bell because they are unwilling to sign him to a long-term contract. I’m sure a four-year, $60 million contract would be more than enough to convince him to stay. Alternatively, Kirk Cousins, the top free agent quarterback last year, signed an $84 million fully guaranteed contract least year, only a few million more than the settlement.
In other words, Kaepernick is almost certainly making more money from the settlement than he would have made if he were playing in the league for the past two years.
Had one of the teams signed Kaepernick, the owners likely would have saved money. Additionally, the arbitrator refused to dismiss the case last year, meaning he believed there was enough evidence for Kaepernick to make a serious case. Therefore, it is very likely that he is right that the league colluded against him.
By agreeing to settle, the NFL avoided the potential release of documents that might have been truly damning. For a league known for bad press relating to concussions, domestic abuse, bad in-game calls, and franchise moves, perhaps it could not handle the anticipated media backlash that would surely also cause a political uproar.
But there are larger issues at stake for the NFL. Now the league has shown it is scared to stop players from kneeling. The settlement does not mean that the anthem protest is over. Instead, it might mean that the anthem protest continues and strengthens, without any chance of backlash from the league.
In the days before the settlement was announced, a story circulated that Kaepernick was approached by the new Alliance of American Football, a developmental league for the NFL, about possibly joining a team. The report said that Kaepernick would only agree for $20 million or greater, which goes against the AAF’s policy of paying all players three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000.
It has since been revealed that the report was false. Perhaps the NFL made it up to make it look like Kaepernick had excessive salary demands, thus supporting its claim that the teams refused to sign him.
However, there is now a good chance that a team signs Kaepernick. Perhaps a team like the Carolina Panthers, who signed Eric Reid last year and have a need at quarterback, will take a chance with Kaepernick.
But if Kaepernick joins an NFL team, and agreed to a settlement with the league instead of following through with the grievance, could he be seen as a sellout?
While those biased against Kaepernick might think that he dropped the case and tried to return to football for the money, doing so also allows him to regain a huge platform and resume his anthem protest, just as an election year approaches and the anthem becomes an increasingly political issue.
And of course, the main issue should not be whether the league blackballed Kaepernick, but the police brutality that was the basis of the protest in the first place.
In every aspect of the case, whether proving the legitimacy of his argument or regaining a large platform, Kaepernick truly outmaneuvered the NFL.