The most overused meme in this decade is “It’s the Current Year”, an appeal to beliefs which are presupposed to be the only acceptable modern discourse. Whatever the debate, this appeal to the Zeitgeist is inescapable. It gets thrown around like a football in the West Coast offense. For my readers with a less than stellar football IQ, that is the style of play with all the passes and touchdowns. The one time I will use that meme is when talking about Colin Kaepernick. He isn’t a superstar. He won’t lead a team to 8-8 season, let alone a Super bowl like in the year 2013. My message to those who define their beliefs by their calendars is this: It’s 2017 you bigot, Colin Kaepernick isn’t worth the trouble.
The Daily Collegian recently published an opinion article by one of their writers on the unemployed Colin Kaepernick. Their writer, Matt Martell, laid out a decent case for the signing of Kaepernick. He is quite accurate when talking about how fans will excuse the abusers and felons of NFL teams as long as the players wear the right colors. Using Ezekiel Elliott as an example might have been a poor choice because he has not been convicted in a court of law, just accused in the public domain. Mr. Martell’s example of quarterback battles between teams like the Colts and Jets is another positive aspect of his article. But overall, Mr. Martell misses the other side of the Colin Kaepernick story, namely the public acrimony over 2017’s identity politics combined with Kaepernick’s 1-10 record as a starter last season.
For starters, Americans love football. As of 2012, 67% of Americans are fans of pro football and over 50% are fans of college football, says a Gallup poll. It is possible that those numbers have changed recently due to professional players making more and more political statements. Weekends in the fall are non-stop football, from Friday night lights to college town tailgating to NFL Redzone’s nonstop action. Football is the American Gladiator sport and we, as fans, love the sport. The day after the Super Bowl is an unofficial holiday. Advertisers covet the Super Bowl commercials because they know the viewership. Football is the American escape from all the hardships we face. Because of the popularity of football and the patriotism associated with it, making political statements is bad for business.
The NFL’s revenue is the highest of all major sports. They brought in $13 billion last year and it is projected to go up. But that money isn’t automatic. When teams and players under-perform, their revenues go down. The same thing occurs when you disrespect the flag and the country when you are surrounded by 50,000 people who love America more than said player’s average-at-best performance. And yes, Colin Kaepernick is average. He had a good year and led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. After that, he was never the same. In his final season with the 49ers, he was 1-10 in a starter. Along with his stats, he has been rumored to be disinterested in football and have a diva complex. He’s has become an average quarterback who is simply not worth the trouble. My opinion of Kaepernick aside, the statistical rating and analysis from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight analytics website bears this out.
So what happens when an average player making more money than he is worth uses his platform to disrespect American veterans, first responders, and the Nation itself. There will be massive blow-back. No blue collar worker making $50,000 a year wants to hear a multi-millionaire complain about being “oppressed”. A Yahoo Sports poll found that 30% of the general public have a negative opinion on the former “Kaeper-tain America”, a former nickname with just a dash of irony. Even among black Americans, only 50% have a favorable opinion of him as of August. Despite the enduring popularity of football, ESPN’s falling ratings combined with the already problematic politicization of the network (see Jemele Hill calling the President a “White Supremacist”) may have owners and investors worried about alienating any more of their viewers. Money is indeed the primary motivator for a multi-billion-dollar business, and average performance simply may not be enough to justify flinging their cash cow headlong into the maelstrom of The Current Year’s identity politics.