There are more than a few NFL players, coaches, and executives who have come out in recent months and accused NFL owners of working together to blackball Colin Kaepernick from the league. From Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, there are plenty of people who wholeheartedly believe that the NFL owners have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league because of his decision to take a knee during the national anthem throughout the duration of the 2016-17 NFL season. It’s seemingly the only explanation they can come up with for why Kaepernick hasn’t attracted more attention as a free agent this season, especially with all of the NFL quarterbacks who have gone down with injuries.
And now, it sounds like Kaepernick himself is buying into the blackballing theory and preparing to try and do something about it. As first reported by Bleacher Report on Sunday, Kaepernick has decided to file a grievance under the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement against the 32 NFL owners for collusion. Kaepernick has hired high-profile attorney Mark Geragos–who has worked with Michael Jackson and Chris Brown in the past—to represent him, and he is calling for an arbitration hearing on the matter.
In his grievance, Kaepernick claims the NFL owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”
Although Kaepernick chose to file his grievance without the support of the NFL Players Association, Geragos sent a copy of it to the NFLPA on Sunday, and they responded by offering to assist him. Geragos also released a statement of his own and said that Kaepernick decided to file the grievance after trying to work with all 32 NFL teams to find a spot in the league. Most recently, it seems Kaepernick showed interest in signing with the Tennessee Titans after their quarterback Marcus Mariota went down with an injury, but after the Titans showed little interest in him and signed Brandon Weeden instead, he opted to move forward with his grievance.
“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports teams) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful protest—which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago—should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Brand of our government. Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance. Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for and to return to the football playing field.”
Kaepernick’s accusations of collusion could ultimately be hard to prove. But the fact that he’s once again taking a stand and calling the NFL owners out is important and should force further conversation concerning why he’s been unable to work himself onto an NFL roster this season. And the NFL will, at the very least, be forced to address Kaepernick’s grievance in the coming days. According to ESPN, there will be a conference call held between the NFL and Kaepernick within the next week.
Kaepernick's grievance could end up impacting more than just him, too. According to reports, the grievance could force the NFL to scrap the current collective bargaining agreement that they have in place, more than three years before the contract is set to expire. That would then result in the NFL owners and players having to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new CBA that would benefit both sides, which could present its own unique set of challenges. But whatever ends up happening, it’s clear Kaepernick is going to continue to shake things up in the NFL, regardless of whether he’s playing football or not.