Like many Americans, Stephen Curry spent his Sunday watching football.
Instead of clicking on the tele in the cozy comfort of his Spanish-style mansion, the Charlotte, NC native turned Bay-Area resident ventured to Levi’s Stadium for the full NFL game-day experience.
Curry was likely overjoyed by his beloved Panthers’ 23-3 victory over the 49ers to open the season. But he was in attendance at what used to be Colin Kaepernick’s house. Until Kaepernick began peacefully protesting the police killings of African Americans with a gentle drop to his knee during the National Anthem, he was a starting NFL quarterback.
Now, the athlete-turned-activist is out of a job.
Curry did not mince words when interviewed by Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer, stating, “He definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.”
ESPN’s preseason quarterback rankings put the likes of Bryce Petty, Josh McCown, Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Jared Goff at the bottom of the list.
Unlike this pack of underachieving and/or inexperienced quarterbacks, Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 — and he is just 29-years-old.
A comparison of his stats with those of quarterbacks at the bottom of ESPN’s list makes clear that Kaepernick is being blacklisted by the NFL and its teams. The reason isn’t that his play on the field is insufficient, or that he has had any conduct issues off of it, but that his quiet protest of the inhumane slaughter of unarmed black people has been deemed controversial by team owners and, therefore, bad for business.
“Obviously his stance and his peaceful protest when he was playing here kind of shook up the world,” Curry said, “and I think for the better. But hopefully he gets back in the league — because he deserves to be here and he deserves an opportunity to play. He’s in his prime and can make a team better.”
The derailing of a player’s career because of a just and peaceful protest against state-sanctioned killings that the United Nations considers human rights violations illustrates, yet again, the toxicity of the National Football League which, historically, has been on the wrong side of everything — from issues pertaining to player health and domestic violence by players to the current Kaepernick shutout.
Beloved criminals of the NFL
Consider, for example, the number of chances the Cleveland Browns gave quarterback Johnny Manziel following his various off-court issues, including drug abuse and domestic violence, which were detrimental to the team because ... uh ... he missed practices and games, to party.
Consider that former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was welcomed back into the league with open arms despite involvement in two murders. He plead guilty to a lesser charge — misdemeanor obstruction of justice — but clouds of suspicion hang over his head to this day.
That Lewis, with his sordid history, had the gall to issue Kaepernick a directive to keep his mouth shut on social-justice issues is laughable — but not more so than Lewis’s assertion that the Ravens did not sign Kaepernick because of something Kaepernick’s girlfriend posted to Twitter.
Assuming employment laws apply to professional football players, it would behoove Kaepernick to explore his legal options against the NFL, Roger Goodell, the Baltimore Ravens and any other team that passed him over for bottom-of-the-barrel players. Hiring quarterbacks without his experience, stats or accomplishments seems fertile ground for a discrimination lawsuit.
Additionally, not hiring someone because of a tweet sent by their significant other is something that could be addressed through litigation as well. Thanks to Ray Lewis’s big mouth, Kaepernick and his lawyers have plenty of fodder to work with for potential legal remedy.
Unlike so many others, Ray Rice was basically banned from the league following what very well could have been a fatal assault on his then-finacee (now wife) Janay Rice, in an Atlantic City elevator. But the league only treated the incident with any seriousness after a video of the assault made the rounds of traditional and social media networks.
Prior to release of the video, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had deemed a one-game suspension to be appropriate punishment for Rice, and the ordeal proved to be a culminating moment in exposing Goodell’s ineptitude and poor judgment.
Bad QB? Empty stadium
Of Kaepernick’s situation, a media member stated the following:
"Owners don't want Kapernick at QB because he'd be bad for business and fans would stop showing up." -Sports Talk Radio Guy https://t.co/6NwgpNGWDx— Tim Miller (@Timodc) September 10, 2017
As sports reporter Ann Killion so aptly pointed out, a losing team guided by a shitty quarterback will have a far greater negative impact on the bottom line than working with a player or players who kneel for two minutes prior to kickoff.
Hours baking in the sun (or shivering in the cold) to watch a team lose isn’t an ideal way for most sports fans to spend an afternoon.
“Stay gold,” Adam Silver
While Roger Goodell and the league continue to demonstrate that black athletes are only as valuable to them as their on-field production, and that their existence outside of sports is unimportant and too “controversial” to fight for, the NBA is modeling the exact opposite: forward-thinking progress, emotional intelligence, social awareness, basic decency and common sense.
As written by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts co-signed a preseason letter to the league’s players encouraging them in the pursuit of social consciousness.
That’s right — encouraging, rather than silencing and stymieing.
None of us operates in a vacuum. Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly. Fortunately, you are not only the world’s greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you [to] know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference.
Helping, rather than hindering black athletes who are burdened by sincere concerns for their safety, knowing that once they step off the field or court they are just big, bad, scary black men a simple traffic stop away from death.
Kaepernick’s protest spurred a host of NBA players to use their platforms to foster change in badly needed ways. And if the quarterback never takes another snap in professional football, hopefully he will be comforted knowing his simple gesture of kneeling functioned as a pebble tossed into the ocean that created a wide ripple.
NFL players, perhaps encouraged by what they see happening in the NBA, are now speaking out quite vocally. Just before Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season kicked off, current and retired football players Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins, respectively, released a video explaining the reasons behind their protests.
Curry said he hopes Kaepernick’s tribulations of the last year “[lead] to some awakening.”
That is clearly happening amongst players and activists who have called for a boycott of the NFL. But the big question remaining is whether NFL owners and officials will grow a pair, tough it out (as they demand of injured players), and stop dehumanizing these athletes who make them billions.
Kaepernick at the three?
But, hey. If a football career doesn’t work out for Colin Kaepernick — a 6-foot-4, 230-pound athlete known for his running speed — surely an NBA team would love to have him. In Adam Silver’s NBA, Kaepernick would be valued on and off the court, and any team would make bank just letting him be himself.
Where Roger Goodell and the NFL see controversy, Silver and the NBA see riches.