Why NFL owners have a right to take a knee on Kaepernick

NFL fans should support the owner of any team that wishes to sign Colin Kaepernick as either a starter or backup.

If there is a willing buyer for his services, then it is not anyone’s place to come between a workingman and employment. On the other hand, fans should also support each owner who sees little upside to signing the unrestricted free agent.

Not extending an offer to represent an NFL locality is the privilege of each team that must cater to a fan base who, by and large, does not wish to cheer on the man who embraced scrutiny by kneeling during our national anthem. 

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The flag of the United States can mean all things to all people. Each concerned citizen need not look far within our borders to find something that offends our sense of justice. Nevertheless, it is no stretch to say that the overwhelming majority of patrons visiting American sports venues find the singing of the anthem as a time where those present are rightfully requested to pause and show a simple respect for the shared value of being a citizen.

 

From an owner’s perspective, it is important to acknowledge how hiring Kaepernick can affect the bottom line. While protected by his recent multi-million dollar contract, Kaepernick decided to engage in a pregame ritual that transcended nearly every athletic story the league exists to create.

This is the precise reason that John Mara, who has earned a solid reputation as an NFL owner and corporate citizen, can be trusted when he revealed that he receiving an outpouring of correspondence from New York Giants fans indicating that they do not wish support a player protesting the anthem.

Just as it is the right of any fan to speak in support of Colin, there is the right of owners to respect what droves of their fan base feel concerning traditional notions of respect for country. 

It cannot be denied that Kaepernick engaged in the most significant speech protected by the First Amendment – political speech. But it is often lost that this beautiful freedom does not provide any protection whatsoever from the employment decisions of the most public of private employers — NFL owners.

The First Amendment only prohibits the government from proscribing such speech. Therefore, in this offseason NFL owners are naturally analyzing the marvelous distraction created over the 49ers 2-14 campaign in 2016.

Fortunately, Kaepernick does not need an NFL position to continue with his commitment to social justice. In most ways, the field of working on behalf of the traditionally underrepresented is far nobler than anything you can do on the gridiron.

Even without sporting an NFL credential, Kaepernick remains free to pursue multiple avenues on the basis of his prominence and accomplishments on the field. 

And it should not be lost that numerous media outlets have reported that Kaepernick is doing a lot of good. He is raising one million dollars for various charities and donating large amounts of necessities to those in need. He has also dedicated his most precious resource, his time, to causes he deems worthy.

Yet each owner knows that if they sign him, Kaepernick is free to react to any national story that affects him and protest in the manner his heart guides. Significantly, he would be free to resume conduct that takes the focus off of athletics in a league where the overvalued American goal is to be the one team of 32 that win the Super Bowl.

In the 2017 offseason, there are two truths that are a challenge to reconcile, but nevertheless coexist. 

No owner is wrong to hire a man of principle like Kaepernick if they find a fit for what he brings to the quarterback position.

It is equally true that no owner is wrong to avoid him. It is a decision we can all share an opinion on, but it is one that should ultimately be respected each time it is made by the few with the power to make it.

Sean Strockyj’s work has appeared in the NY Daily News, NY Post and Forbes.com.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.