The NFL has a possibility to in any case do proper via Colin Kaepernick, and it better be genuine.
Kaepernick confirmed Tuesday night that the NFL has organized a workout for him Saturday in Atlanta. It will include drills on the field as well as an interview, and all 32 teams were invited. For teams that can’t make it, the league will make video of the workout available.
My first reaction was that it’s about time. Kaepernick has been effectively blackballed by the NFL since the end of the 2016 season because he had the audacity to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color and the endemic racism in our society that is behind it.
Players have violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy multiple times, been arrested for domestic violence, also multiple times, and created enough drama to script a reality TV show, and none has been shunned like Kaepernick. So many quarterbacks have been injured, or just plain bad, that Brian Hoyer started a game last weekend.
Meanwhile Kaepernick, who took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in his second season and is still tied for the second-lowest career interception percentage, can’t get so much as a phone call.
Which is why my second reaction was to wonder what the NFL — specifically, its team owners who are almost exclusively white men of privilege — is up to.
I would like to believe that some team, maybe more than one of them, is genuinely interested in Kaepernick, and the NFL is giving them the cover to work him out without sparking a backlash or another wave of faux outrage.
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But there are things that don’t add up.
NFL workouts during the season are usually held on Tuesdays, the league’s lone “off” day, because coaches and general managers are free. Or as free as they’re going to get between July and January. Kaepernick’s workout is on a Saturday, when general managers and scouts are typically at college games and coaches are either traveling or finishing their game preparations.
Are we really to believe that Chicago Bears general Ryan Pace would detour to Atlanta on his way to Los Angeles, where the Bears play the Rams on Sunday night, even though Chicago is a team that could desperately use Kaepernick? Or that Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia will break away from trying to figure out how to replace Matthew Stafford, even if it is to go see someone who might actually be able to do it?
The timing is also curious. Kaepernick’s representatives have been saying for three years that he is working out and wants to play, going so far as to release a memo in October knocking down “false narratives” about the quarterback. Yet ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Kaepernick and his team didn’t learn about the workout until Tuesday morning.
When they asked if it could be on a Tuesday, or another Saturday, Schefter said they were told no.
Does that mean there’s a team with an honest and urgent interest in Kaepernick — looking at you, Carolina and Detroit — and the NFL wants to make it happen? Or is the league simply trying to wash its hands of Kaepernick once and for all?
Which brings us to the NFL itself.
This is not an enlightened or selfless group, and it is petrified of anything that poses a threat to its bottom line. Kaepernick’s return to the league would outrage some fans and no doubt draw the attention of President Donald Trump, who never wastes an opportunity to stoke racism and hatred, and it’s naïve to think teams won’t consider this when weighing whether to sign him.
But so, too, should they consider what it says about a league that more readily welcomes drug users and physical abusers than someone trying to help this country right three centuries of wrongs.
The NFL can never make up for the abysmal way it’s treated Kaepernick these last three years. Giving him a fair shot Saturday — a real shot — would be a start.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.