Stephen A. Smith, co-host of ESPN's hit 'debate-style' morning show First Take, has gone full social justice warrior for Colin Kaepernick. He claims the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been unfairly discriminated against by the entire league, in an effort to silence his beliefs on racial injustice and police brutality. Furthermore, he now says that the most important agenda item is to get Kaepernick hired, so that other black NFL players will not be discouraged from speaking out on issues about which they feel strongly. This is typical of the left, to force privately owned businesses to bend the knee to their demands, because their cause is morally superior. The reality of this situation is that there are many factors involved in why Kaepernick has not been hired by any of the 32 NFL franchises. Furthermore, I disagree with the fundamental idea that the workplace should be used as a platform for political protest, exempting employees from consequences stemming from their actions. With all of this in mind, let's take a look at the many facets involved here:
First up, how strong is Colin Kaepernick's case based on his value as a quarterback? There are tons of individual metrics and statistics measuring quarterback performance, but ESPN's Total QBR (quarterback rating) is the best single metric available, combining multiple statistics, to determine a quarterback's value. Total QBR combines several traditional quarterback statistics, factors in decision making, contextualizes individual plays, and applies this to the team's overall performance, to determine how much the quarterback contributes to a team's success. I referenced ESPN's Total QBR records from 2016, and found compelling evidence to support teams not hiring Kaepernick based on poor performance. Among the 30 qualified quarterbacks (those who met the minimum requirement of downs played) Colin Kaepernick checked in at 23rd. 23rd is not considered "good," but this would seem to make a case for Kaepernick getting a job. However, when looking at the individual metrics which determine the level of skill of certain aspects of his game, we find he possesses a glaring deficiency. The statistic which gauges a quarterback's ability to pass the ball, is crucial to determining potential quarterback success. This measures a quarterback's passing ability, specifically in terms of their decision making and clutch performance. Among the other 29 qualified quarterbacks, including the seven rated below Kaepernick, the ratings range between 84.4 (Drew Brees, no. 5 in Total QBR) and 10.2 (Case Keenum, no. 30 in Total QBR). Colin Kaepernick's rating is -0.3. Simply put, his passing ability and efficiency is rated far below his peers in the NFL. In fact, the only reason Kaepernick's Total QBR score isn't abysmal is due to his running ability. The problem with relying on running ability is that defenses will eventually stop worrying about the pass and shut down the run. This has happened with nearly every running quarterback who failed to develop a respectable level of passing ability. The other key issue for teams to consider is the high risk of injury, which follows QBs who rely on their legs. The data is against him, here. The idea that Kaepernick's failure to find a job has nothing to do with his ability, is simply untrue.
Another contributing factor is actually due to Colin Kaepernick, himself. According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, Kaepernick is reportedly seeking a contract similar to that of a high end backup, or low end starter. He also stipulates that he must be afforded the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Again, going back to the data covering his latest season, he needs to be realistic in what he is asking for, understanding that his value has greatly diminished, based on his own play. The NFL is just like any other business, in that an individual is paid based on his market value. If the asking price is too high based on current demand, then teams will not sign the individual. Colin Kaepernick is attempting to hold the NFL hostage, by forcing a team to sign him, leveraging his popularity among key sports media and political figures. If he wasn't, he would engage in actual negotiation with teams, and settle on terms more in line with his actual value.
Headlines all through the 2016 NFL season were telling us over and over that ratings were down significantly, and they were right. The Presidential election did have a measureable impact here, but overwhelmingly NFL fans were telling the media there was one reason they weren't tuning in. That reason? Colin Kaepernick. Without getting into whether you agree with his position or not, this is a fact which cannot be ignored. According to a Sports Illustrated story in October 2016, which cited a study by Seton Hall University, 56% percent of NFL fans surveyed said they believed the 11% decrease in ratings was due to Colin Kaepernick's protest of the National Anthem. A Yahoo/YouGov study surveyed 1,136 American football fans, and found that 29% claimed they were tuning in less than previous years, with 40% of those citing Kaepernick as their reason. The fact is that based on the evidence, including lower ratings and polling data, Colin Kaepernick cost the league money and viewers last season. This is very important, because this factors heavily in the decision to hire Kaepernick or not. The NFL is made up of 32 separate franchises, all in the businesses of making profit. Employers are not going to hire individuals they feel will have a negative net impact on their business. They are perfectly within their right to do so. Actions have consequences, but the left opposes this idea, on the grounds that leftist ideology is undeniably right and just. Because of this belief, any person or businesses who gets in the way of the progressive machine must be met with fierce opposition, and forced to comply with the left's demands.
Finally, let's address Stephen A. Smith's claims that not hiring Colin Kaepernick discourages blacks in the league from speaking out, and his assertion that a team NEEDS to hire him. The idea that a person can use their workplace to protest, and not be subject to any consequences is a load of garbage. Private companies have the right to fire or reprimand employees if their political activity significantly disrupts the employer's business, according to the California Labor Code. It is not the responsibility of the NFL or its individual teams, to further the cause for social justice warriors. The NFL may choose to advocate on behalf of certain causes, but it is free to do so as it sees fit. This is pure conjecture, but I wager that Colin Kaepernick would have reached those he was trying to reach, without risk to his employability, had he kept his politically divisive protest separate from his job in the National Football League. Stephen A. Smith is correct when he says that blacks will be discouraged from speaking out in the future, if Kaepernick ultimately remains unsigned, but he is more correct than that. This should send the message to EVERY NFL player, that while on the field and in uniform, they represent the franchise paying them millions of dollars. They represent the league that organization is part of. There will be consequences when you choose to turn a football field into a political debate stage, or a protest. I think that's a fair message, and the right message. You are there to do your job, as your employer defines it, and to follow the rules and guidelines your employer sets. If your actions result in the company sustaining significant disruption or damage to their business, you will likely become unemployed.
I'm not on the "Go away forever, Colin Kaepernick" train, but I do believe the (sports) media needs to back off from their crusade to force the hand of the NFL and its franchises. ESPN and other sports media outlets need to get a clue, and stop injecting politics into sports, or else risk further damaging their industry and the industry they cover. Professional athletes need to understand their responsibility to their employer, before morphing into Maxine Waters or Malcolm X, while on their field or court. And finally, Colin Kaepernick needs to work on his abilities and understand the dynamics of market value, if he wants any shot at playing another down in the NFL.