Colin Kaepernick has undoubtedly been the model of political controversy in the NFL over the last five years. From his kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality toward colored citizens to his collusion case against the NFL, he’s been lauded as both a hero and a criminal by differing sides of the political spectrum.
As of late, Kaepernick has been publishing books about how prisons should be abolished and filming documentaries. His latest work aims at his former employer, the National Football League.
Kaepernick’s new documentary, Colin In Black And White, compares the NFL Draft process to slavery. The minute and a half long clip above theatrically displays an NFL Combine measuring event molding into slaves being sold and marched into a cotton field.
Comparing the NFL Draft to slavery
History teaches us that slavery is the worst stain on our country. The way that people were sold into slavery, against their will, chained, and beaten into working plantations is a human atrocity. However, that’s what it was. People being sold for money and forced to work against their will, frequently in poor living conditions, was slavery. In the clip, Kaepernick compares that process to the NFL Draft.
But let me tell you, what they don’t want you to understand is what’s established is a power dynamic. Before they put you on the field, teams poke, prod and examine you. Searching for any defect that might affect your performance. No boundary respected. No dignity left intact.Colin Kaepernick – Colin In Black And White
There is some truth to what Kaepernick is saying. Teams do look for every potential pitfall through a series of tests and physical examinations to look for reasons why a player can’t play. They ask a lot about the prospect’s background, many difficult questions and the medical examinations are comprehensive.
So what Kaepernick is speaking to is that the investment that NFL owners put into players is like slavery. Millions of dollars are on the line with each investment in a prospect, much like plantation owners looking for suitable workers.
Colin Kaepernick’s comparison falls short of the point he’s trying to make
There are a couple of very distinct differences between the NFL Draft process and slavery that aren’t exactly mentioned in the above clip.
First of all, players are not being pushed into the NFL against their will. For most players, the NFL is a lifelong dream. It’s a dream that most players have worked their entire lives to see realized. I’m sure that slaves were dreaming of freedom, not being sold onto another plantation and working somewhere else.
Secondly, players are paid millions of dollars to play a game that millions of people watch. Players are often lauded as heroes. Kaepernick himself was once in this position as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in a Super Bowl. Then, the league recognized that players were struggling to take care of their money and implemented programs to help them invest and retain their money. I’m confident that slaves were not paid for their labor, nor given education on investing, nor looked up to by society as heroes and role models.
Considering that football prospects aren’t being asked to work against their will, nor are they being sold into impoverished conditions, nor are they being sold, it seems to be a weak analogy.
The NFL process is to help create competitive balance
The power dynamic that Kaepernick describes in his documentary is not to enslave colored football players. The NFL Draft process was created early in the league to help promote a competitive balance.
One of the issues with most major sports leagues is equally distributing talent across the league or creating the opportunity to do so. If you observe the European soccer leagues, teams dominate when they spend more cash. Their system is one of profit management, where the teams that rake in the higher incomes govern the leagues simply by purchasing the better players.
The draft process is to help aid teams in the players that they select. They want to draft the best players onto their team to become competitive. Because of that and the millions of dollars on the line, medical and physical examinations are essential. No one wants a prospect on the team who has, for example, a severe knee issue. If that’s the case, he might get hurt well down the road. If it’s bad enough, they can advise the prospect not to play any longer.
The information that they compile helps them choose the best fit for their team.
If Colin Kaepernick see’s a problem, then what is his solution?
I am all for listening to problems with processes. People who have worked with me would describe me as very open to suggestions. I understand that I won’t think of everything when formulating a plan and that other people will think of problems that I should address. With Kaepernick’s claims of the process, he provides no solution.
What needs to change, and how do we do it?
I don’t believe that an NFL fan wants to see the league switch to a soccer-style roster-building system. In fact, I think that would kill the NFL. How else should the NFL conduct this?
I don’t think Kaepernick has a solution other than to abolish the NFL.