Colin Kaepernick. Remember him? Below-average quarterback. Above-average poseur. Not “activist,” not really. Activists actually say stuff. Kaepernick almost never says anything. He’s like the Queen or most popes — you have to read the deep-background musings of supposed members of his inner circle to get a clue as to what he might be thinking.
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, when anyway he was merely the disappointing starter on its worst team, and given that dozens of quarterbacks have entered the league since then and that he’s been gathering rust like the Tin Woodman for three years, he obviously is never going to play in the show again.
Oh, and just to draw a line under the matter: He also sued the league. A handy rule of thumb when you’re trying to get a job is “don’t fire off a lawsuit against your potential employer.” Kaepernick settled out of court with the league in February, and that’s that. The divorce papers have been finalized. The parties have agreed to go their separate ways. Now Kaepernick can get back to his chosen profession, which is posing for advertisements and looking fierce. Hey, he’s pretty good at that. He’s the heir to 80 percent of the America-hating motion-picture professionals known as the Hollywood Ten, who were booted off studio payrolls for being unfriendly witnesses before the House Un-American Activities Committee. As Billy Wilder put it, “Only two of them had talent. The rest were just unfriendly.” Being unfriendly to the flag but not especially talented with a football has worked out fine for Captain Un-America. He can dine out on having been unfriendly for the rest of his life. But as for the rest of us, we’re not going to boycott football any more than anybody boycotted movies in the 1950s.
So what’s this? “Jay-Z Helped the NFL Banish Colin Kaepernick,” claims the headline of a piece by Jemele Hill in The Atlantic. Come again? The “banishment” happened years ago, and the Kaepernick saga ended months ago. It wasn’t till last week that Jay-Z last signed a deal with the league in which his Roc Nation company agreed to provide advice and strategy about Super Bowl halftime entertainment and also social-justice initiatives.
“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” Jay-Z said at a press conference to announce the deal. “So, in that case, this is a success; this is the next thing. ’Cause there’s two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’”
Sounds to any reasonable person like the NFL is trying to create a space for political matters for its players, overseen by a figure who commands great respect among young black men. This is . . . bad?
Yep. Because Jay-Z is a traitor to the cause, someone who “chose to collaborate” with the NFL, writes Hill. I’m not sure whether the echo of Vichy France is intended, but I have a hunch it is. Work with the NFL, which provides the most popular spectator sport and the most-watched television event of the year, and that makes you a bit of a Nazi sympathizer. Hill also says Jay-Z is “being used as cover. Or, at best, a buffer. The league can point to its partnership with Jay-Z whenever anyone brings up the fact that several of its owners are Trump supporters.” Whoa, the goalposts just got up and took a stroll. How did Trump get into this discussion? Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem during the Obama administration. Are we now to direct obloquy at the NFL because some of its owners are Republicans? Has there been a single day of the NFL’s existence when many if not most of its team owners voted Republican?
Jay-Z once displayed allegiance with Kaepernick by wearing the QB’s jersey during a Saturday Night Live appearance. But time does move on. Was Jay-Z supposed to never be involved with the NFL again, even after Kaepernick settled his lawsuit? If Kaepernick and the NFL are done with each other, is everyone who felt sympathy for Kaepernick obliged to participate in a forever boycott of the league? That is apparently Hill’s view. A source close to the ex-football player told her that he spoke to Jay-Z after the new deal was announced but “it was not a good conversation.” Kaepernick also hinted in an Instagram post that he considers matters far from settled. “My brothers [Eric Reid, Kenny Stills, and Albert Wilson II] continue to fight for the people, even in the face of death threats,” he wrote. “They have never moved past the people and continue to put their beliefs into action. Stay strong Brothers!!!”
If Hill and other Kaepernick fans think Jay-Z should turn his back on the NFL forever, this is fairly childish. Nobody can talk to my ex anymore, because I’m still mad, and planning to remain mad forever. It’s past time to move on. Jay-Z gets it. Just about everybody else does too. “Everyone heard and we hear what you’re saying,” Jay-Z said at the presser, referring to Kaepernick, “and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying. So what are we going to do? So we should, millions of millions of people, and all we get stuck on [is] Colin not having a job. I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”