Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he has not been invited to meetings between the NFL, players, and team owners.
The NFL insists he has been on the guest list for all of them.
Kaepernick is not currently an NFL player. He opted out of his contract with San Francisco after starting a controversial series of protests in 2016 against “police brutality” and “racial injustice” by initially sitting out, then kneeling, during the playing of the national anthem. The trend caught on, with other players kneeling, refusing to stand, and even raising a fist in a black power salute, causing public backlash and fierce debate.
Droves of fans have since been turned away from the NFL, with some even burning their NFL merchandise.
The NFL top brass has been meeting with a coalition of players, union representatives, and various team owners, and according to league spokesman Joe Lockhart, they have been looking forward to Kaepernick “joining the conversation.”
Members of Kaepernick’s legal team say otherwise. Attorney Mark Geragos told Slate.com, “We specifically reached out to the [NFL Players Association] and to the Players Coalition, and we were verbatim told that Colin had no role.”
On Saturday, ESPN reported on Oct. 28 that “a coalition of NFL players has extended an invitation to [Houston Texans owner Bob McNair], commissioner Roger Goodell and unsigned quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a Monday meeting in Philadelphia at which they hope to address players’ ‘immediate concerns before additional progress can be made.’”
Kaepernick’s lawyers said they were never invited to the Oct. 30 meeting, which had been canceled.
Those attorneys also claim the former quarterback was not invited to an Oct. 17 meeting between players and owners.
That meeting seems to have been organized by The NFL Players Coalition, a group of 11 players organized by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. When asked by Kaepernick’s lawyers the NFL suggested they ask the Coalition where the invitation might be.
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) also suggested that the Coalition was responsible for invitations.
Jenkins told the Associated Press that the “league didn’t accept our invitation” to the Oct. 30 meeting citing scheduling conflicts.
“Nothing is set, but the league is eager to continue the dialogue with the players,” an NFL spokesman told the AP. “We would welcome Colin at a meeting, but it’s the players who are extending the invitations.”
This raises the question of whether active players think inviting Kaepernick would be helpful or harmful in resolving the issues arising from Kaepernick’s kneeling protest and subsequent demonstrations.
Kaepernick’s lawyers say their client’s input is essential in an email to Jenkins:
“It remains inconceivable that actual progress can or will be made at these player meetings if discussions regarding certain ideas and platforms which Mr. Kaepernick has led and created are discussed and negotiated without Mr. Kaepernick being present.”
The email continued by saying Kaepernick “is open to participating in, and discussing the ideas he has led, at the next meeting in a meaningful way.”
Claims of Collusion
Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, claiming that team owners colluded to keep him for playing in the league as retribution for the league-wide controversy his anthem protest started.
The complaint claims the NFL and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States.”
The league is set to come to a settlement with Kaepernick’s legal team at arbitration meetings which are yet to be scheduled.