The NFL had been enjoying a largely controversy-free season, with the exception of HelmetGate, until the league announced it planned to offer a workout to one of the most controversial figures in modern sports: unemployed former quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
Ask any NFL fan, and they likely have an opinion, both about Kaepernick, as well as the league-wide protests he sparked. While some strongly supported the QB, many more spoke out, loudly and at length, denouncing the protests. More importantly, for the NFL, they voted with their wallets. Game attendance fell, and so did TV viewership. Given that TV contracts are one of the most lucrative ways for the league to earn, action soon followed.
But that action quickly devolved into indecision and take-backs, further enraging an already prickly fan base. Finally, the league took action. Kaepernick was out, and players were strongly discouraged from taking part in public protests. Time passed. While some disgruntled fans never returned, focusing instead on college ball, many did come back. These fans were rewarded with an incredible season last year, that saw the emergence of once-in-a-generation breakout stars and some other incredible storylines.
Then came this year. Everything, except the Jets and Dolphins, was going swimmingly, until superstars Ben Rothlisberger and Patrick Mahomes went down with injuries. But their teams soldiered on, giving fans hope. Then came the unexpected move: an invitation for Kaepernick to work out for several interested teams.
The controversy exploded all over again. Boycott talk immediately picked up steam again, and, once again, the league heard from Kaepernick haters. So, the question was asked: “why?”
Some suggested that the invitation was a win-win for the league. If Kaepernick showed up and did well, the league could tell his supporters, “See, told you so.” If he didn’t show up, the league could say, “He really doesn’t want to play.”
So, how did those predictions hold up? Well, he didn’t show at the scheduled event, opting instead to conduct a workout at his own facility in front of reps from several teams. Now both sides are trying to win the PR battle.
Kaepernick’s side is insisting the league had bad intentions all along, that they wanted the workouts to fail. So he took the initiative, arguing that the league’s offer was abrupt and unfair, giving the QB only two hours to accept an invite and only four days to prepare.
In response, the league said Kaepernick fumbled his opportunity, saying they gave him a chance, and he blew it. Responding to the accusations that Kaepernick was not given time to prepare, league officials pointed to social media posts from the QB claiming to be working out many times a week and claiming to be “ready to play.”
More arguments about days and details followed, with each side claiming the other was being disingenuous. This continued until it was announced that all media would be barred from the tryout. Kaepernick’s side jumped on this, implying that the league was hiding something.
Fans, critics, and media personalities took sides, and the Kaepernick saga exploded once again. The question now, is “was it worth it?” Did either the league or the QB get anything out of what is now an ongoing war of words filtered through media? Both are still blaming the other side for derailing the event. So, who won and who lost? Jury’s still out.