The late Al Davis always never flinched at telling the NFL to go chew itself, and he likely would not have resisted in extending an opportunity for Colin Kaepernick to become a Raider.
Without Al around to spite the league’s punitive pettiness regarding Kaepernick, no other owner has shown the stomach to break ranks and invite the 31-year-old quarterback for so much as a legitimate workout.
Well, the forces of fate have converged to change that. And another ownership, perhaps more suitable than Davis, has a chance to take a stand for liberty and justice for all.
The Steelers on Sunday lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of the season with an elbow injury, leaving untested second-year man Mason Rudolph as the starter, with Devlin Hodges set to come over as backup.
OK, Rooney family, do your thing. The right thing. Your team is 0-2 and staring at a Rudolph-Hodges combo. Could there possibly be a better opportunity to once again live up to your ideals? To make a difference in a way that transcends the football field?
The Rooney family has spent decades doing a commendable job of cultivating and maintaining an image of fairness in a league generally indifferent to the concept. During the racial turmoil of the 1960s, they ventured to historically black colleges to find players. In 2003, the late Dan Rooney, who ran the Steelers franchise until his death in 2017, conceived a system that gave people of color an opportunity to become an NFL head coach. The Rooney Rule -- you may have heard of it -- is a policy that requests all teams seeking a head coach or front-office executive to interview at least one person of color.
Rooney, then the chairman of NFL’s diversity committee, put his words into action. Upon Bill Cowher’s departure from Pittsburgh in 2007, Rooney interviewed both Ron Rivera, a Latino, and Mike Tomlin, an African-American. Tomlin was hired seven weeks before his 35th birthday.
The credentials don’t end there. Rooney publicly supported Barack Obama for both terms of his presidency. One year before his death, Rooney received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
The award, known as a ROBIE, is presented to individuals who promote and expand opportunities for people of color in the corporate world. It put Dan Rooney in the company of such fair-minded folks as Red Auerbach, Desmond Tutu, George Lucas and Arthur Ashe.
Which is to say, again, the Steelers have a history of promoting equal opportunity.
Kaepernick has been training for exactly that. Nothing more. He has credentials. He’s a dual threat, producing with both his arm and his legs. He was, in his last season with the 49ers, voted the Len Eshmont award winner, which goes to the player “best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team." The award is the team’s most prestigious voted on by players, and Kaepernick received it in 2016, when he began kneeling in protest in racial inequality and police brutality
And now he’s written off as a “distraction?” As not being good enough?
As quarterback after quarterback gets injured – more than 30 since Kaepernick was effectively blackballed – teams have been twisting themselves into knots to avoid considering him while reaching out to some of the most preposterous QBs available, some active and some retired.
Yes, we remember Jay Freaking Cutler unretiring in 2017 to accept $10 million to throw 19 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and post an 80.0 rating for the Dolphins.
Kaepernick’s last season: 16 touchdowns, four picks, 90.7 rating.
Pittsburgh has a tradition of winning. Its six Super Bowl wins are tied with the Patriots for most by any team. Only New England has a higher win percentage in the 21st century.
The Steelers this season are at the bottom of the AFC North standings and staring at a likely third consecutive loss when facing the 2-0 49ers this weekend in San Francisco. There is absolutely nothing to lose in taking a look at Kaepernick.
Steeler Nation can decide for itself what it despises more, losing football games or adding an Amnesty International ambassador of conscience winner in what would be a rational step toward winning.
This is an opportunity for Art Rooney II, son of Dan, to help his reeling team while also planting a flag of fairness that will be recognized around the globe. An opportunity to do something that would have made father proud.