Despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, there are indeed second acts in American lives. People reinvent their public personas in grand and innovative styles all the time. Colin Kaepernick could be formulating his second act right now as he could be forced into it much earlier than anticipated.
It doesn’t look like he’s going to be getting a NFL job this year despite the fact that he’s
a.) still in his physical prime at age 29 and
b.) coming off a very solid season in which he was a respectable 17th in the NFL in passer rating and accomplished an elite 16-4 TD to INT ratio. The bad news for Kaepernick is that his prospects in football don’t look promising for this fall.
The good news is that he has all the potential in the world, for his next career, which would be much bigger, more relevant, and greater in scope than football. Colin Kaepernick is the most divisive person in American sports right now, and quite possibly the most polarizing of any individual who doesn’t dwell exclusively within the political arena.
He is an individual that has long been written about and discussed well past the point of overkill. Yet the idea of his potential life after football has gone largely unexamined.
NFL scouting community as a whole said that Mike Glennon was the top free agent QB while also saying that Colin Kaepernick can't play, hmmm
— Herb Lawrence (@Ecnerwal23) September 17, 2017
He’s been called the Muhammad Ali of this generation, and that’s certainly an apt comparison. However, another analogy to consider would be Jim Brown. The Cleveland Browns legend, who was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher for two decades, until Walter Payton surpassed him in 1984, became a prominent activist in his life after football.
In an interview with the Post Game, Brown said of Kaepernick: "I would advise you: If you're a football player, play football."
"If you want to be a real activist, use your money, use your notoriety."
Another parallel you can draw is Wade Davis, a former professional football player and a black activist who often works with athletes. Davis is referenced and quoted in John Branch’s must-read New York Times piece from 9-10-17, entitled "Kaepernick's Conscience: How an N.F.L. quarterback became one of the most prominent, if divisive, social activists in sports."
"Kaepernick's Conscience" is truly the signal emerging from all the media noise about the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. It's a fantastic long form that's truly the perfect word count to encapsulate all the complexities Kaepernick embodies.
The column recaps the wholistic development of Kaepernick on every level- physically, professionally, intellectually, personally, philanthropically and most important politically. Kaepernick has a really bright future in the sociopolitical arena, it’s just up to him to decide when, where and how.
He moves people when he speaks, and when he’s silent and allows those actions to speak for him.
He’s the most “woke,” as millennials say, athlete going right now. Protestors, demonstrators, activists, whichever term of designation you use, have come out in full force this fall boycotting the NFL on behalf of Colin Kaepernick, and his first amendment rights being silenced. Thousands showed up at National Football League headquarters in midtown Manhattan a few weeks ago to convey the #ImWithKap message.
Kaepernick doesn't just reach progressives, he resonates with moderates and centrists too. Bill Cowher, the legendary former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach and now Sunday morning NFL talk show pundit, interestingly raised the issue of contract specifics, and if certain financial requirements are standing in the way to Kap's getting a new gig.
I’ve literally seen Kaepernick do this. In Oakland. Teaching the Constitution to young black men. Even got a pic as evidence. https://t.co/CzEWNBCAoT
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) September 16, 2017
Bringing up the incentive based contract clauses is a small, but important talking point that's gone overlooked in this debate too.
Points to Cowher for ending his soap box session with "prove me wrong." In this era of people not taking accountability for what they say (or even basic truth or simple facts for that matter), he goes out of his way to take ownership of exactly what he said. Colin Kaepernick also prominently strikes a chord with those with an opposing viewpoint.
The almost always repugnant in his hot takes Jason Whitlock seems to have a bizarre fixation with him these days. The failing upwards alt-right Barbie known as Tomi Lahren put herself on the map by making Colin Kaepernick the machine against which she raged.
Then you have, as Deadspin's Barry Petchesky called them, "the dog whistling Wonder Twins" Clay Travis and Britt McHenry. Both have now reinvented themselves as white grievance specialists who pander to a redneck agenda that's in the same niche with the white nationalist sympathizers.
McHenry, despite her re-branding, is still mostly known for the video of her Regina George meets the evil Sweet Valley High twin dressing down of a lowly service sector going viral.
Travis is exactly what I said in the tweet below:
Actually a very intelligent & well educated man who went complete sell-out to nothing but low-brow crude, offensive hot takes all the time https://t.co/MZxMc8WELN
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) September 15, 2017
Over the weekend, he one-upped his own personal most disgusting moment ever when he viciously insulted the dead grandmother of a NFL Draftee on Draft night. This time, he took a serious discussion on CNN about Jemele Hill calling the President a white supremacist, and just reduced himself to an overgrown frat bro prattling on about boobs.
We're not exaggerating that one bit; apparently this is the performance artist that Travis has now chosen to rebrand himself with.
The general point is that Kaepernick incites strong opinion across the spectrum, from the enlightened to the troglodytes and everywhere else in between. Unfortunately, having a strong, dissenting voice does not work in corporate America and the NFL is currently more corporate than it's ever been. Becoming corporatized consists of bending over backwards to always avoid any kind of controversy.
Corporate culture means that no one shall ever be offended, at any time, no matter what the cost. Said Brown when asked if one can be both a football player and an activist at the same time:
"I can't be two things at once that contradict each other. If I sign for money, then the people I sign with, they have rules and regulations."
The NFL is excessively micro-managing and dumbing down at the same exact time that the political atmosphere is becoming more charged.
Just last week a publicist invited me to cover a Kansas City Chiefs player public appearance/product shilling. I showed some initial interest, until they told me that if I wanted to ask him anything at all related to the team, they would have to first clear it with Chiefs Media Relations.
I then responded by saying I was no longer interested in either attending the event or even doing a story on it.
When micro-managing becomes this extremist, and obsessions with message control reaches this level of ridiculousness, of course a free-thinking player with strong dissenting opinions will be left out of the league entirely. It's now even been prioritized over the individual's ability to play the position and win football games. Kap bested Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, while leading his team to a Super Bowl, just a couple years ago. Anyone who tells you that he is washed up today just isn't paying attention.
Rodgers himself said Colin Kaepernick is out of the league due to his protests, while Brady, an ardent Trump supporter, hopes that Kaepernick gets a job in the league, because he's deserving of one.
If Colin Kaepernick is in fact more interested in social justice than playing football, there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
We have major serious issues in this country that need our attention and effort.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.
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