Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel in protest over his perception of race relations in America may mean the former winning quarterback may never line up behind center again in the NFL. In a league where a guy who went to prison for dog fighting gets a second shot, some are saying it’s not fair. Millions of NFL fans disagree, and Bills running back LeSean McCoy is on their side. The Buffalo star offensive player was blunt in his assessment of the “Kap” fiasco that is lingering around the NFL preseason like a scalper with a fist full of fake tickets. It’s there, constantly, and everyone just wants it to go away.
Speaking to the media, McCoy said: “You’ve just got to look at all sides like, if I’m an owner or the GM of a team, do I want to put him on my team? Is he good enough to be on the squad to even deal with everything that’s going on?”And there it is, the PR math of being on an NFL franchise. Football is a fan-based business. If you rile up the fans to the point where they stop coming to games, stop watching on TV, and stop buying your gear, you lose money. As a player, if you create more of a mess than you create value for the team, you’re not going to play. Doesn’t matter who you are.
In Kaepernick’s case, his margin for “mess” is much lower than some other players. That may sound harsh, but that’s the business reality. Sure, he had some success in San Francisco … but not so much that many teams are even willing to consider the drama that will be created when he wears their uniform. There are some, sympathetic to Kaepernick, who believe the league is “punishing” him for speaking his mind. McCoy doesn’t buy that either. “That may have something to do with it, but I think also it has a lot to do with his play… There’s certain players that could be on the team with big distractions, and there’s other players that it’s not good enough or not worth it.”
And there’s that tough but honest math again. Making an NFL team is a zero-sum game. You better bring it, and you better be worth it. If not, you’re gone. Some still believe it’s about what Kap said, not how good he is. When pressing McCoy on this issue, one reporter brought up Michael Vick, the guy who did time for dog fighting. McCoy turned the question around on the reporter. “Great example. A guy like Vick … he’s ten times better than Kaepernick. So, you’ll deal with that situation, you’ll deal with that attention, the media aspect of it, the good, the bad attention to it compared to Kaepernick.
McCoy finished by defending freedom of speech, but said players should choose a different, better, platform to “state their beliefs.” Despite the 1,000 or so fans who showed up at NFL offices recently, McCoy’s perspective seems to be the prevailing wind among NFL fans. Speak up, sure, but find a different venue. Until that changes, Kaepernick, like the Browns players who recently took a knee during the anthem, will face pushback for their “speech.”