Is the NFL finally serious about diversity? Show us by signing Colin Kaepernick

·5 min read
Todd Kirkland/AP

As Jay Z said so eloquently and obtusely a couple of years ago, the NFL is past kneeling.

The league is seemingly also past placating videos and on-field displays in trying to fix its decades-old problem with racism and diversity.

The NFL is now pulling out all the stops in trying to let everyone know that it is real serious this time. And they really mean it.

Of course, the Brian Flores lawsuit, accusing the NFL of racism, probably helped jump start the league’s efforts more than Jay Z’s Super Bowl halftime shows.

In March, the NFL also announced the creation of the Diversity Advisory Committee, a six-person committee that, according to a league statement, will “lend its expert, external perspective on industry best practices and will evaluate league and club diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies and initiatives, including all hiring processes, policies and procedures, with a primary focus on senior-level coach and front office personnel positions.”

Out of that committee came the decision to launch the inaugural coach and front office accelerator program, which took place Monday and Tuesday in concert with the NFL’s meetings in Atlanta.

Each NFL team nominated at least one candidate to attend the two-day program, designed to get minority candidates for head coach and GM openings face time with the league’s highest-ranking decision-makers and a chance to learn the business on a working level from team owners and executives.”

Assistant director of college scouting Chris Vaughn and defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. represented the Cowboys.

It’s a joke that the league thinks minorities like Whitt need leadership development when, apparently, coaches like Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore do not.

Of course, we all know that is not why the league gives minorities sham interviews, puts them in positions they can’t succeed or continues to have a poor record of hiring minority head coaches.

It’s also a shame that owners need meetings like this to get to know the top minority coaches in the league when they have no problems plucking Joe Judge and Nick Sirianni out of obscurity.

And they have enhanced the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for head coach, general manager, front office and coordinator positions by now requiring teams to interview at least one diverse candidate for the quarterback coach position, which is the training ground of head coaches.

So yes, the league is trying to do something.

In the words of the great NBA theologian Derrick Coleman, “Whooptee Damn Do.”

These things wouldn’t be necessary if the league was truly about meritocracy and the owners were interested in hiring the best candidates possible.

This looks more like a process of hoping to curry favor as defendants in the Flores’ lawsuit.

How about this as a novel idea to truly show that the league is past kneeling and is ready to truly move forward: Sign Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in protest of police brutality against people of color.

Members of other teams soon followed suit in 2017 and the furor caught the attention of then-president Donald Trump, who challenged the league’s owners to cut players who kneeled during the anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a [expletive] off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said in rallying his base and pushing a MAGA agenda.

NFL owners, worried about losing fans and sponsors, went to war to stop the anthem protests. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was front and center.

And Kaepernick, the face of the take a knee campaign, was blackballed.

He has now been away from the game for six years.

The league has had a new awakening in the wake of George Floyd’s death and has changed its public stance on Black Lives Matter and the protests.

The NFL has posted signage in the end zones in all stadiums the past few seasons of “End Racism and “It Takes All of Us”.

The NFL is still trying to make strides in face of the Flores lawsuit.

But if it really wants to take a major step, it will make Kaepernick whole again by signing him to a contract.

We know it can be done with pointed direction from the NFL’s New York offices on Park Avenue.

Isn’t that what happened with defensive Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team in 2014? When he was cut in training camp by the-then St. Louis Rams, it was reported that the NFL called several teams and asked them to sign him to the practice squad.

Jones, who said he wasn’t called, obliged. The Cowboys released Sam after roughly six weeks on the practice squad.

But precedent had been set for the league to lobby for a player for social impact.

The Sam situation certainly laid the foundation for Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib to come out as the league’s first actively and openly gay player in 2021.

The difference between Kaepernick and Sam is that the former 49ers quarterback has an actual NFL résumé as a former starter with a Super Bowl on his ledger.

He wants to play again. He has more experience and better track record than many of the stiffs serving as backup quarterbacks in the NFL, despite his time away from the game.

He remains in great shape.

He had the courage to take a stand and now asks for an opportunity to put a uniform on again

The NFL is past kneeling. It is trying to make a stand to end racism in hiring practices with actionable things.

It’s not time to cower now.

Make Kaepernick whole again.

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