On February 15th, the NFL announced it had settled controversial Quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against the league. Kaepernick, alongside fellow NFL player Eric Reid, kneeled during the national anthem prior to games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality during their time on the San Francisco 49ers. In 2017, both players filed a collusion grievance against the league, claiming that owners were conspiring against the players in order to prevent them from re-joining the league and signing with a team. Although a discretionary clause in the settlement prevents the details from being released to the public, one thing is clear: Colin Kaepernick won.
To be clear, Kaepernick was already winning before the settlement. Earlier this year, Kaepernick announced a social justice-oriented ad campaign with Nike on Twitter. However, it has been reported that Nike has actually been paying Kaepernick since 2011, and the new deal is likely worth millions of dollars per year and includes royalties. The announcement of the deal came during the initial stages of the collusion lawsuit, which was expected to go to trial at the time. However, the NFL’s settlement, which has been estimated to pay Kaepernick upwards of $40 million or more, demonstrates the league’s awareness of what was to come in trial. The evidence seemed to be stacked against the league, and Kaepernick and his counsel were poised to win. Yet, although the lawsuit ended before it reached trial, Colin Kaepernick still won this case. He is getting paid by Nike, he was awarded a likely substantial amount by the NFL, and he still plans on using his voice and platform to continue speaking out against and working to resolve social justice issues that disproportionately affect African-Americans.
To go along with all of this, Kaepernick still wants to play. He has been training since he was shut out of the league, and he believes he could make an impact as a back-up or even a starting Quarterback on an NFL team. Now that this lawsuit has been settled, Kaepernick has a good chance of signing with a new team this off-season. Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Gregeros, stated after the announcement of the settlement that the most “natural” fit for Kaepernick was the Carolina Panthers, given that they had already signed Eric Reid, and Cam Newton, their starting Quarterback, has been dealing with a shoulder injury that required surgery. However, Gregeros also named the New England Patriots as a potential landing spot for Kaepernick. “I will tell you that besides the Panthers, it would not surprise me if [Patriots owner] Bob Kraft makes a move,” said Gregeros.
Now, it’s hard to know if the recent controversy that Mr. Kraft has found himself in affects the likelihood that the Patriots sign Kaepernick. Regardless, Colin Kaepernick signing with the Patriots would be poetic justice at its finest. Given the Patriots’ turbulent history with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, their connection to President Trump, their incredible success, and the hatred they receive from every fan outside of New England, Colin Kaepernick to the Patriots would be the icing on the cake.
First, like Kaepernick, the Patriots do not approve of Roger Goodell, the current NFL Commissioner. Patriots ownership, management, and players all have expressed disdain towards Goodell, particularly in regard to the Deflategate Debacle, in which Tom Brady was suspended for four games after allegedly ordering team personnel to deflate footballs below the legal limit prior to the 2015 AFC championship game. This case was appealed multiple times by both parties and almost reached the Supreme Court, ending at the U.S. Court of Appeals with a reinstated suspension for Tom Brady. The whole controversy has led Patriot Nation – team, ownership, fandom, and all – to develop a strong dislike for Commissioner Goodell.
Thus, one can imagine how sweet it was when the notorious NFL Commissioner was forced to hand over the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady the same year Brady was forced to serve his four-game suspension. As sweet as this was for everyone involved with the Patriots, and as bitter as it must have been for Goodell to have to face the disdain of Patriots fans and hand the championship trophy to his biggest critics on national television, imagine how much sweeter it would be for the Patriots, and bitter for Mr. Goodell, if he had to hand the Lombardi trophy to Kraft, Belichick, Brady, and Colin Kaepernick. It is almost undeniable that Colin Kaepernick and the Patriots organization are respectively the two most public, open targets, and therefore critics, of Roger Goodell. Watching Goodell give the trophy to Kaepernick and the Patriots would be a pretty terrible look for him, and it would symbolize absolute triumph for the Patriots and Kaepernick as well as absolute defeat for Roger Goodell.
Even more importantly, Kaepernick winning a championship with the Patriots would be an even bigger defeat for Donald Trump. Today, the New England Patriots are the best representation of traditional American football. They have a long-lasting dynasty, they play a very systematic and fundamental game, and they represent the American ideals of pride, hard-work, commitment, tradition, and doing your job. Donald Trump is somewhat of a Patriots fan himself, as he was outwardly rooting for the Patriots prior to and during this year’s Super Bowl on Twitter.
Meanwhile, what Colin Kaepernick represents is often seen as anti-American. He kneels for the national anthem, speaks out against American authority, and outwardly critiques many aspects of what America stands for (and does not stand for) today. Subsequently, Donald Trump has been outspokenly anti-Kaepernick for some time now, responding negatively to Nike’s Kaepernick campaign as well as his protest of the flag.
So what would Trump do if Kaepernick signed with the Patriots? Would he revoke his Patriots fandom? What if the Patriots won the Super Bowl? Would he congratulate the team, thereby congratulating Kaepernick? Would the Patriots be invited to the White House to celebrate?
No matter how the White House would handle the situation, it would look bad for President Trump. Kaepernick would come out on top, and it would be truly symbolic of Kaepernick winning this entire controversy. The fact that he’d be doing so with the Patriots, Trump’s favorite team, would be just too good to be true.
This all goes for the rest of the country, especially Trump America. There’s no denying that those who criticize Kaepernick for his protests are more likely to find themselves on Donald Trump’s side of the political spectrum. However, unlike Trump, most American football fans despise the Patriots. Some call them cheaters, liars, lucky, and more. Though there can be some merit to their name-calling, the clear reason that just about every fan outside of New England roots against the Patriots is that they win. No matter what adversity faces them, they continue to dominate professional football in an unprecedented way.
So, imagine if the most hated team in football won a world championship with the most controversial and often hated player in football. Those who detest both Kaepernick and the Patriots (which I would argue is likely a significant percentage of American football fans) would be filled to the brim with salt. The most ignorant and angry fans in football would have to watch as everything they couldn’t stand about the NFL was awarded the most prestigious award in the league.
There’s no way of knowing if Kaepernick will sign with the Patriots. The most important thing for football is that Kaepernick re-enters the league by signing with an NFL team, be that the Patriots or another team. Nonetheless, there’s just so much about the prospect of him playing for and winning with the Patriots that makes it so dream-worthy. It would be one massive middle finger to the sour commissioner, our racist President, and the ignorant portion of American football fanatics. It would be poetic justice at its finest. The icing on the cake.
So, to the Patriots organization, as a lifelong fan, I ask you this:
Please make this happen.