Programming note: Tune in to "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" on Friday night at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.
The NFL is shouting from its ivory basement that it is in the midst of an awakening, that it now realizes its banishment of Colin Kaepernick was overtly punitive and, moreover, that it would like to make amends.
Can you imagine?
Hello, Colin. This is the NFL. Happy Juneteenth! What’s good, bruh? Hey, look, we’re trying to put together a 2020 season. We don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but we wondered if you’d be willing to join us. We have 32 teams, and some of them could use a quarterback. Did you hear Anthony Lynn, the Chargers’ coach – who is, by the way, one of our Black head coaches – talking you up the other day?
According to the words of commissioner Roger Goodell on two occasions this month, presumably speaking for team owners, the road back to the NFL has been cleared for the former 49ers quarterback.
Dr. Ameer Hasan Loggins is among the millions not buying it. The longtime confidant of Kaepernick, a panelist on “Race In America: A Candid Conversation,” on NBC Sports Bay Area Friday night at 8 p.m. is unsparing in his scrutiny.
“First of all, as a writer and as a scholar, you pay attention to words,” Loggins says. “And initially (Goodell’s comments on June 5), he didn’t even mention Colin’s name, right? It was something like he was bouncing back and forth with the players until they got to a point where they were like, ‘Apologize to all the players that protested.’ And it was like ‘Hey, I can’t touch that because it’s also inclusive of Colin.’
“Then he came back (in a June 15 ESPN interview), and it was a thing where it was like ‘I would encourage.’ It was a certain ... encouraging is not demanding. I’m also aware of the fact that maybe two, three weeks ago the NFL retired Colin mysteriously.”
The NFL on May 22, on its redesigned web site, listed Kaepernick as “retired.” Never mind that Kaepernick had not announced any such decision. Or that he set up a workout last November hoping to impress NFL teams enough to get an invitation.
Loggins’ skepticism is warranted. Though it has become fashionable in recent weeks for American institutions to craft statements condemning racist behavior while vowing to be more diverse and less offensive, history is rife with instances of words and gestures not put into practice.
To be blunt, such promises have been used as social opiates to mollify the restless. Has America ever been more broadly restless than now?
“Understanding that I’m not a prisoner of the moment and I’m recognizing that what Goodell is doing is trying to put forth a certain kind of image onto the necessity of seeming as if they’re willing to accept Colin,” Loggins says.
“But you’re not calling him. You’re talking all this talk on your whatever Zoom chats, in whatever little dungeon you’re in, doing that talk. But have you reached out to Colin Kaepernick and his agent or his lawyer? Because that’s when I know it’s real.”
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It has been almost 42 months since Kaepernick appeared in an NFL game. In a short span of time, he went from being the NFL’s most sensational quarterback, leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, to its most visible pariah. From being the league’s new wave to being not good enough to make rosters with three quarterbacks whose combined gifts might equal half of his.
All because he kneeled during the pregame national anthem to express his honest and fair concern about racial injustice and police brutality inflicted upon black people in America.
“In order for Colin Kaepernick to not receive a single call in the last four years – and I’m telling you as someone who knows him – that he has not received that call,” Loggins says. “That was coordinated, because that means everyone came together collectively at the same time and decided that this one person was not worthy of being included into this space anymore. And that’s not happenstance that something that has to be colluded or done behind the scenes.
"So, I take it as a PR, just like everybody else. I take it the same way that those police that are taking knees in the daytime and beating the hell out of people at night, I take it that way.”
It doesn’t matter that Goodell is wearing the face of the advocate for Kaepernick. Or that President Donald Trump this week – three years after urging NFL owners to fire “those sons of bitches” daring to kneel – is now saying he’d support Kaepernick getting another chance.
It’s hard for anyone who has followed this saga since 2017 to take either man at his word. Each is aware of the multicultural energy toward justice and is formulating a new agenda. Trump is what he’s always been. And Goodell, his credibility near zero, knows he has nothing to lose.