Last week, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid settled their collusion lawsuits with the National Football League, which could be the finality of the quarterback’s NFL career.
The former San Francisco 49ers teammates were at the forefront of social justice protests that Kaepernick initiated in August of 2016 which a overwhelming majority of NFL owners viewed as an existential threat to their bottom line.
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” read a statement issued by the league. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
Reading between the lines, one can infer the NFL is admitting there was enough evidence to substantiate Kaepernick’s and Reid’s claims of collusion. Perhaps the players would have ultimately lost the suit, but a payout was the prudent course of action for the NFL to avoid the potential public relations fallout if testimony from the case went public.
Revenue is what matters most to the league’s billionaire owners, most of whom are politically conservative Republicans. And with a vast amount of the NFL’s right-leaning white fan base swayed by the demagoguery of Donald Trump, vehemently opposed to the silent protests, which took the form of players kneeling during the pre-game presentation of the national anthem, the 31-year-old Kaepernick has ostensibly been blackballed by owners and the 27-year-old Reid subsequently faced struggles being signed before inking a three-year, $22 million deal with the Carolina Panthers earlier this month.
Last season, Reid was paid $1.69 million, a figure that was well below what a player of his caliber should have made. He directly attributed it to his prominence in the protests that grew into widespread social justice demonstrations by NFL players as well as athletes of other major global sports leagues.
“If anything, it proves my point from last year,” said Reid after receiving a new contract. “I didn’t sign until the [fourth] week [of the season] and did for almost the league minimum. And this year I signed a more substantial contract. And nothing has changed. I’m still the same player.”
The same could be said for Kaepernick. He has been out of football since opting out of the last year of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017. There is little argument he deserves to still be in the league based solely on merit and talent. But as the vanguard of the protests, he became one of sports’ most polarizing figures.
Three year later, Kaepernick is perhaps still too toxic to the sensibilities of virtually every owner, and the settling of his lawsuit may at last signal the end of his career.