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  • Kaepernick put his opinions out in the open and protested a cause about which he feels strongly. It's time for NFL teams to show their cards as well, starting with the Seahawks.
By Conor Orr
April 13, 2018

The relief in Thursday’s ESPN report that the Seahawks postponed a visit with free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick (and subsequently signed a QB who has never played a down in the NFL) because he refused to guarantee he’d stand for the national anthem in 2018 is that we might be able to finally drop the pretenses.

We have routinely played interview footsie with important people in charge, asking them questions about issues we kind-of, sort-of know how they feel about already. We’ve allowed these canned responses to populate the air we breathe and reaffirm our beliefs regarding the limitations that should be placed on a player’s free speech in the workplace—if at all. So many coaches, general managers and owners were able to win for so long because the smart ones talked out of both sides of their mouth, leaving just enough birdseed for the Anthem Standers in one hand and Liberal America in the other.

Maybe that’s about to change. This is the second report in one week about a player being asked to spell out his plan regarding the anthem before signing with an NFL team. Eric Reid, one of Kaepernick’s original partners and an outspoken ally, remains unsigned despite being one of the best free agents at his position. If this were a year ago, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Reid just sinking into the same quicksand that Kaepernick did—contempt with, or fear of his viewpoints disguised as banal, semi-negative assessments of talent, leading to an eventual, unspoken blackballing about which we can all feel better. Because why risk a business hit that would reveal yourself to the world?

It doesn’t feel good when we strip everything down to its soul, but maybe that’s what this point in American history is for. Let’s get it all out in the open. Regardless of how you feel about a player’s right to kneel during the national anthem, two men have peacefully risked their livelihood and dreams to prove a point they feel is vital. It’s time for the coaches and general managers who have enjoyed playing both sides of the issue to throw their cards on the table, too. Don’t leave an amateur psychologist like me to guess, because here are my notes:

• You might be scared that a billionaire owner will fire you if you press them too hard on signing Reid or Kaepernick and, like them you will be unemployed.

• You might feel like signing and supporting players unafraid of speaking their mind will lead to you losing command inside the facility, and you will no longer be able to walk around pretending you are George S Patton in Nike khakis.

• You might resist having your opinion out there because you don’t want good players who care about social justice issues but only speak about them in societally approved ways to not come to your team in free agency.

Don’t leave it to your favorite reporter to clean it up on television via “sources,” either.

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We might not like the answers, but what about this flimsy, hollow middle ground feels good to anyone right now?

The response to player protests over the last two years has bordered on hysterical. Every day we dig in to our respective side of Dr. Seuss’s Butter Battle instead of talking about what really confuses us, scares us or makes us mad.

Here’s hoping that the Seahawks end the stupidity and confront this report with something that resembles an honest answer. I’ll personally offer three choices they can pick from before running it by a horde of trained crisis communications specialists.

A. The report is true, we don’t believe in players kneeling for the anthem so we decided not to visit with Colin Kaepernick.

B. The report is false, and here’s the actual reason we don’t want to sign Colin Kaepernick and we cancelled the visit: We feel Kaepernick is not good enough to play in the NFL. Period. Not ‘Someone will sign him soon,’ not ‘He just wasn’t a fit for our team,’ not ‘We just really like the guys we have.’

C. We’d like to sign Colin since he’d probably excel in this offense and act as a capable backup for Russell Wilson, but if he keeps kneeling, the president and people who agree that this is an unacceptable way to raise awareness for certain issues will counter-protest, boycott our product or make us pariahs around the NFL. We were going to try and back out of it casually but got caught, and we don’t feel like having our locker room dissected on Fox and Friends. Instead, we’ll take the short-term wrath on Twitter after we sign a quarterback obviously of a lesser caliber and pass the time in the pre-draft tornado shelter while it all blows over.​

At least give us something, like the ESPN report, that shows a window into what you’re really all about. Let’s all stop trying to be who everyone wants us to be. Those days are over. That’s impossible now.

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