Greg Cote: One NFL team will be champion of the streets — the one that dares sign Colin Kaepernick

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Protests continue in the streets as the reasons why continue in the news. Confederate statues topple along with the ideology that raised them. And, yes, if you want an oddly perfect little symbolic visual for what’s happening: Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben walk hand in hand into forced retirement, disappearing into the past.

Tectonic plates are shifting beneath our feet. It feels like the beginning of actual change, the kind that can only happen when it grows from the national conscience.

We could be living in the middle of a new American revolution forcing evolution. It would be about equality. It would be about time.

Some might say a bottle of syrup and a box of rice being retired for the racial stereotypes of their brands is political correctness to a fault. That it’s going too far.

Maybe going too far is called for when you haven’t gone far enough for most of 244 years.

Another sign of progress must come now. Another step forward. In the larger picture it might be symbolic, but it also would be significant. Meaningful.

Colin Kaepernick, back in the NFL.

Now, please.

There might not even be a 2020 NFL season, let alone one with fans in stadiums, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, one brave team (or maybe just one that needs a proven quarterback as a backup?) needs to sign Kaepernick — give him the chance he’s been denied going on four years.

Indications are we are moving toward that.

In a speech in 2017 President Donald Trump called NFL players who kneel during the national anthem “sons of bitches” who should be “fired” by their teams.

This week Trump said he’s OK with Kaepernick getting another chance “if he has the playing ability.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spent the past three years trying to snuff out the protest Kaepernick began. This week Goodell pivoted, saying the NFL should have supported Kaepernick and his fight all along — and pledging $250 million over 10 years to social justice initiatives.

Just this month, the Saints’ Drew Brees, asked about kneeling, said he could never support anything “that disrespects the flag.” The backlash and his mea culpa were immediate after one of the most accurate quarterbacks in history had missed the point by a mile.

Kaepernick’s movement was/is about social justice, and it disrespects only unnecessary, deadly police force. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks have just recently made his cause more vitally relevant than ever.

The thing is, Kaepernick always has been more than the social justice warrior turned into a martyr of sorts by the NFL’s tacit blackballing of him.

He has never stopped being a quarterback looking for work, one who s “more motivated than ever” to play again, he said this week.

His career was taken from him in its prime. He still is only only 32, only nine months older than Ryan Tannehill, who was just lavished with a huge new contract by the Titans.

In Kaepernick a team would be getting a proven, dual-threat QB at a reasonable cost. The need is out there. Ravens, Titans, Texans, Eagles, Jaguars, Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers — those and more could use an upgrade at backup QB.

The Dolphins would have been prominent on that list, for me, had they not drafted Tua Tagovailoa in April.

Earlier this spring NFL owners voted down, but considered, a bylaw that would incentivize the hiring of minority coaches by offering improved draft slots to teams that did so.

I began to wonder if it might take such bribery for Kaepernick to ever get back in the league.

Now for the first time I think not.

The climate of apparent collusion that has kept Kaepernick out seems to be melting. Just this week, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and the Eagles’ Doug Pederson expressed an interest.

One concern about signing Kaepernick always has been the rust of his long time away — a situation of the NFL’s own doing. Another is the distraction factor. Kaepernick bringing the circus to whatever town signed him.


We are in the middle of a pandemic that has teams trying to figure out how to open training camp with a phalanx of safety protocols including social distancing — and worrying there may not be a season at all.

We are in the middle of something else entirely that has many players as passionately interested in reaching social justice as they are about reaching an end zone.

We are surrounded as a nation by distractions at the moment. Surely adding Kaepernick to a roster is something a team can handle.

inevitably there might be a small, fleeting protest by a few fans determined to still associate kneeling for social justice with disrespecting the flag.

But far more fans would cause the team that finally signs Kaepernick to see its national stature lift, and see the attention on it grow.

One NFL franchise will step forward, raise its hand, and be the new favorite team of the streets, the cause, the fight.


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