We discussed Colin Kaepernick a little bit on Tuesday's Press Row. Paschal asked me if the actions of the past week have made Kaepernick more popular.
The tragedies of the last eight days since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police — the very issue Kaepernick was protesting a few years ago by kneeling during the National Anthem — have become the central theme of every news report, conversation and social media post.
More popularity? Probably not a great deal; the folks that supported Kaepernick will still support him and those who had issue with him likely still do.
More validity? Well, as we watch the transition of protests into riots in regard to police relations with minorities, Kaepernick's public position — even on a knee — was certainly ahead of its time.
It's entirely possible to understand Kaepernick's message and intent and dislike his method. But that method — especially when compared to the out-of-control riots in far too many of our cities — seems rather benign about now, no?
And, make no mistake, Kaepernick's protests, which clearly cost him a job in the NFL, may have been the only moment in the last quarter century that has generated meaningful talk about police and minorities that did not include tragedy like Floyd or Rodney King or the riots that ensued.
Heck, here's a column from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune calling for the Vikings to sign Kaepernick.
(Side note: Signing Kaepernick right now would be a mistake, in my opinion, because it will be cased as a pity signing or a weak attempt at a far-too-late olive branch. That said, here's betting that when sports actually return, leagues and fans better be prepared for a bevy of protests. In fact, the folks who run the leagues, if they were smart, would be wise to figure out a way to be inclusive — and not during the National Anthem — about protests/tributes before games. That is, you know, if we ever have games again.)
Kaepernick's absence in the NFL was at first, I firmly believe, because of the league's collective wishes and its desire to disconnect from the controversy that caused a noticeable dip in the TV ratings and the sport's popularity. Kaepernick's extended absence from the field has been as much his choice as anyone else's.
Whether it was money — Kaepernick has been paid well as a spokesperson for Nike — or commitment or anything else in between, that's anyone's guess.
But Kaepernick's relative silence on everything around us during the fallout from Floyd's killing has been deafening.
And in a lot of ways, above the fray. What would Kaepernick say right now, "Told y'all" or something along those lines?
At some point Kaepernick likely will speak. There are too many folks looking for a comment from him to be honest.
Will we listen then? We'll see.
Can we really stick to sports right now
Speaking of the Kaepernick issue, we got a couple of complaints Tuesday on Press Row for me to "stick to sports" because of various takes on society issues from Floyd to the riots to the unfortunate way President Trump has handled almost everything in the aftermath since this weekend.
Most everyone around these parts know I voted for Trump and frequently point out the positive things he has done for the economy in his first three-plus-years in office. And, as I pointed out, if you are like me and think a lot of his positive decisions and moves are frequently underplayed in the court of public opinion and the media, then we have to be able to point out his shortcomings when apropos.
Simply put, Trump's bunker routine Sunday and that awful Bible-holding photo op were so far at the other end of leadership and a complete 180 from what our country needed it's hard to put into words.
But of course the "Stick to sports" crowd came calling, which made me think a few things:
> Have you noticed that no one says 'stick to sports' when I am riffing on movies or pop culture;
> Have you noticed that no one says 'stick to sports' when I say political things they agree with;
> And maybe most importantly, we're doing a three-hour talk show in a historic pandemic in which there have been no sports for more than 10 weeks now. Stick to sports? You want me — the old-school anti-soccer-hooligan — to break down the Bundesliga standings? Yeah, that works.
Simply put, the stick-to-sports plan during this time — the pandemic and the racial unrest in our country — is simply not possible. Nor is it prudent or socially responsible.
Is there any place in our society that we are more diverse and inclusive than the locker room? I say no.
Does that mean leagues do not have issues in terms of diversity in hiring? Of course not.But if you can play — the best NFL running back is white, the best three young quarterbacks are black, arguably the two best young NBA players are foreign-born players of each race, et al. — you can play. Whether you pink or black or polka-dotted.
And sports have always been a leader in terms of race discovery in this country.
With all apologies to Rosa Parks and MLK Jr., Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier is right there with any civil rights accomplishment ever.
In the South, Bear Bryant making his team shake Sam Cunningham's hand and embracing black football players changed a lot more hard heads and hate-filled hearts than the "I Have a Dream" speech could have ever reached.
So in that case, maybe I will stick to sports.
Now and always. Good talk, gang.
So everyone does pay players
You know the drill, when TFP ace sports columnist and college basketball wizard Mark Wiedmer writes about college hoops, we read and link Weeds on college hoops.
Here's Weeds on Zion Williamson and his on-going legal affairs with a former business associate who believes Williamson had agreed to be their client.
The court ruling on Tuesday means — as of this morning, depending on appeals and other legal developments — Williamson will be forced to testify about his eligibility during his one year at Duke and whether he and his family received money during that time.
Of course he did. We all believe that right?
Because we all believe everyone in college basketball has broken more rules than Bandit and Snowman on the way to Texarkana and back with all that Coors.
But we — the collective we being sports fans, media and everyone in between — have almost always held Duke in a social place.
"They do it right" we say. "They get the kids that love the game," we counter. "Not Coach K — he doesn't need to cheat," we scream.
Or maybe that's just what we want to believe, because it's nonsensical. Truly.
And if Williamson is forced to testify — even if Coach K manipulates the testimony and has plausible deniability and is not directly connected to the payment trail — well, then we'll all know for sure. Because there's no way anything happens in Coach K's program — especially something a dramatic and important as players getting six-figures from Nike — that he is not fully aware of.
Whether it comes up in court, or whether we want to believe it or not.
This and that
— Here's my man David Paschall, the TFP all-around sports big-timer, with a very interesting look at the "Lance" 30-for-30 and catching up with the director.
— Vic Fangio stepped in it Tuesday. The Denver Broncos coach's statements are coming under fire; he said racism and discrimination are minimal in the NFL and he doesn't see racism at all in the NFL. There are racial issues in the NFL in the hiring process, so Fangio is going to have to backpedal. But if he had just crafted that statement about the locker room and sports in general and guys on the field, not only is there not a controversy.
— Speaking of stepping in it, Clemson's tight end coach Danny Pearman apologized Tuesday for using the N-word toward a player three years ago. Not sure what it's going to take for white people to get that word out of their mouths. There simply is no place for it. And considering the hubbub that Dabo Swinney's had over the racial conversations this week, this may cost Pearman his job at Clemson.
— As college football teams start to return to campus and have workouts, scanning the news wires on which programs have players catching The Corona will be interesting to follow. An Oklahoma State linebacker caught — wonder if Coach Mullett tried to screaming at The Corona, "Come at me, I'm a man" — COVID-19 at a protest. Three members — two players and a staffer — at Marshall also have caught it.
— Good goodness, James Conner is ripped. REEEEE-ipped.
Which way Wednesday starts this way.
Which 30-for-30 is your favorite? Which non-college football 30-for-30 did you like best?
Which would you rather hear on the stand, Zion or Coach K?
Which is more likely when the NFL returns — no one protests or a majority of players protest?
As for today, June 3, let's review.
Happy birthday to Rafael Nadal. He's 34.
The first baseball uniforms were worn on this day in 1851, as the New York Knickerbockers took the field in matching white shirts, blue trousers and straw hats.
On this day in 1988, Big was released. Does Big make Tom Hanks' Rushmore, which is a pretty crowded Rushmore friends.