The Washington NFL team is in desperate need for a quarterback, as it has been a team in free fall ever since its starter, Alex Smith, broke his leg in a Week 11 game. That injury touched off a four-game losing streak that has all but torpedoed a once-promising season.
On Thursday, seven school-board members in Prince George’s County, Maryland, released an open letter to Washington’s owner, Daniel Snyder, urging him to sign former San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick — a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback who happens to be available because he’s been blackballed by the National Football League ever since he took a knee during the national anthem during the 2016 season to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
The board member told Snyder that “it is apparent that Kaepernick is at least deserving of a roster spot based on his track record as an NFL quarterback.”
“As school board members, not standing for the national anthem wouldn’t cost us the opportunity to work, and it shouldn’t cost him either,” they added.
Unfortunately, as persuasive as the open letter’s appeal was, it remains certain that Washington will never seriously consider signing Kaepernick.
And it has nothing to do with head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive schemes, experience levels, zone reads, playoff reps, or Kaepernick’s willingness to play — all of which have been offered up by Gruden and other members of the organization as excuses. Kaepernick’s representatives have been clear about his desire to play, and he boasts a significantly better resume than any of the other quarterbacks that Washington has resorted to since Smith was lost for the season, including Colt McCoy (who like Smith suffered a season-ending leg break), Mark Sanchez, and Josh Johnson.
So, whatever could it be, then? Why in the world would a team who watched two of their quarterbacks break their legs, and yet unfathomably remain in playoff contention, not take a chance on Kaepernick? Some have voiced concerns that such a signing would alienate the team’s fan base. But considering attendance at home games is already abysmal, such concerns lack merit. Meanwhile, two weeks ago, the team signed a player who had recently been arrested for domestic violence, acknowledging at the time that they were willing to take the “P.R. hit.”
Well, aside from the theory Kaepernick has posed in his lawsuit against the NFL, which accuses team owners of colluding to keep him out of the league, its simple: Washington owner Dan Snyder is too afraid to sign Kaepernick, because it would anger GOP politicians, who have come to rely on anti-Kaepernick sentiments as a way to fire up their base.
And, as it happens, Snyder really, really needs the support of Republicans right now — especially on the federal level — because he is lobbying congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to get a stadium provision inserted into the massive spending bill that congress is trying to force through to passage before the end of the year. Should that measure be included in the bill, it would remove a substantial roadblock that is currently preventing Snyder from building a new, 60,000-seat stadium on the site of RFK Stadium within the city limits of Washington D.C.
“The provision could pave the way for the NFL stadium and other commercial development on the 190-acre site that was the setting of the team’s greatest triumphs,” the Washington Post reports. “By tucking it into a complex spending bill, the team and local officials could sidestep some public debate over whether other uses for the coveted parcel of land would benefit a broader swath of D.C. residents.”
So as long as Snyder needs Republicans to force through this bill that would hurt D.C. residents and taxpayers, he’s won’t do anything to jeopardize that plan. Signing Kaepernick would be the right decision from a football perspective, and if it resulted in salvaging this season, it would likely be met with favor from Washington’s floundering fan base. But with Trump and his Fox News allies reliably offering up their extreme anti-Kaepernick stance, Snyder would run the risk of his shady deal falling through.
That’s bad news for the Prince George’s County school board, who feel Kaepernick could actually help inspire its students.
“As school board members our reasons for wanting Kaepernick to get a try-out are simple. We believe that giving Kaepernick an opportunity will send the right message to our students and community members, who see him as someone who cares about issues affecting our community,” the letter said.
Over and over again, Kaepernick has been told by the NFL, fans, and media to stick to sports. And yet, at the end of the day, it looks like it’s an owner’s political agenda that will prevent him from taking the field this season.