Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned, and the reasons why he might still be out of a job are fast approaching the number of days he’s been out of said job. While there’s a vocal contingent that contends Kaepernick simply isn’t talented enough to play in the NFL any longer—a dubious assertion given his performance as recently as last season—one NFL owner has noted that there’s a bit more at work here than just a onetime Super Bowl quarterback looking for gainful employment.
Kaepernick, of course, achieved his notoriety not for what he did during games, but what he did moments before them: kneeling during the National Anthem, his own personal protest of police action in America. That political stance enraged millions of NFL fans, and it’s clear that many aren’t ready to forgive Kaepernick or even try to understand his point of view. The spillover swamped every other team in the league, as New York Giants co-owner John Mara noted in a recent article in The MMQB.
“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “’If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game.’ It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”
The Giants didn’t make any kind of push for Kaepernick, and that’s not a surprise: Eli Manning is working out just fine for now, and the Giants need to begin thinking about his successor—a role for which Kaepernick wouldn’t be suited even if he had never knelt. Kaepernick, for his part, has begun discussions with Seattle for a potential backup job, but that opportunity hasn’t yet materialized.
Still, the Kaepernick story takes on new dimensions when you widen the lens. What’s interesting is that one of those “other issues” to which Mara should be referring is the Josh Brown incident, in which the Giants signed the kicker to a new contract after he admitted to verbal and physical abuse of his then-wife, and kept him on the team after the NFL suspended him for one game rather than the customary six. (At the time, Mara actually said Brown “admitted to us he’d abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”) In other words, Kaepernick’s protest—which was perfectly legal regardless of whether you like it—drew more heat than a matter of admitted domestic violence, which is of course illegal.
Look, we’re not making the decisions on NFL rosters, and you’re not either, so for all of us, it’s just speculation for the reasons why Kaepernick remains unsigned. But it’s clear from Mara’s comments that the potential for public backlash against a Kaepernick signing remains as strong as ever, and that alone could be enough to keep him on the sidelines.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.