Colin Kaepernick’s Return to the NFL Dependent on Improved Communications
Colin Kaepernick is understandably hurt, angry and resentful at still not being employed as a quarterback with an NFL team. Yet he likely doesn’t recognize that he is part of the reason for his misery, just not for the reason Kaepernick feels.
The common narrative is he is being blackballed for daring to kneel and speak out against racial injustice and continuing to boldly, courageously do so.
“1,363 days of being denied employment. Still putting in work with [Eric Reid]. Still going hard 5 days a week. #StillReady #StopRunning.”
Colin Kaepernick tweet
Could this be not so much matter of illegal and indecent behavior on behalf of potential employers and more so possibly a show of entitlement?
First, to say that Kaepernick’s courage and boldness to stand up for those being oppressed in society is not a contributing factor to him no longer being in the league would be dishonest. It is one driver of his unemployment.
It’s however not the only one.
The other common narrative is that Kaepernick declined opportunities to stay in or re-enter the league, only wants to be a starter, wants more money than he is now worth and is putting on an act about how much he wants to play, not willing to do what teams want from him.
Are those claims accurate? Both narratives carry truth in them.
Critics on each side of the fence believe strongly in their argument and deny the other side’s.
What is less open to argument is that Kaepernick’s skill set is equal to or better than numerous employed backup quarterbacks and arguably, some starters.
In his last season, 2016, he played in 12 games, with 11 starts and threw for 16 touchdowns and only threw four interceptions. He was also a threat with his legs, running for 468 yards and two more touchdowns. He could be a quality backup in the league and might be able to start for a select group of teams.
Yet a problem that is greatly contributing to Kaepernick’s inability to reclaim a job in the NFL is the reputation attached to his attitude. Many will look for convenient arguments, often racially tinged, contrary to this truism to create a heated argument.
The reality is Kaepernick has a public relations problem, a big one. Owners, general managers or coaches don’t trust him and it has nothing to do with his social advocacy for humanity for people of color that ensures civility and safety.
It does have to do with Kaepernick conducting himself in a way that franchises and their leaders expect of their quarterbacks. Not all players. Quarterbacks.
Kaepernick feels he is being blackballed yet he’s trying to win in the media and social media with a hammer, which rarely acts as an effective form of public relations, conflict resolution, reputation improvement and thus, influence or persuasion in the job market.
Kaepernick, if he wants to play again — and even at 33 years old he’s not too old — has to decide if he is willing to rise above his pained emotions to be professional and humble. Throwing uppercut punches on potential employers and decision makers in franchises, using the media and social media as allies or thugs won’t earn trust and increase marketability. It will ruin it.
Kaepernick would have long ago been employed, even as a strong voice of social justice. He would be an NFL player again if he learned that business is about people. With a wise, skilled public relations approach that is confident, bold and yet humble and professional, Kaepernick can earn another opportunity to quarterback in the National Football League and still speak out for what is most meaningful to him.
Michael Toebe is a reputation analyst, consultant, advisor and communications specialist, serving individuals and organizations. He has provided analysis and advisory for Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, Physicians Practice, Corporate Compliance Insights, New York Law Journal and Training Industry and regularly publishes at Red Diamonds Essays and Reputation Specialist Essays (both on the Medium platform) and LinkedIn.