The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has led to a renewed focus on police brutality against minorities, as well as Colin Kaepernick’s role in peacefully protesting it. That has spurred one prominent figure who was in the league at that time to reflect on his handling of that situation.
Joe Lockhart was the NFL’s spokesperson during the Kaepernick controversy in 2017, when the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality. In a column for CNN, Lockhart wrote that he felt at the time the NFL had done a “righteous job” opening a dialogue on race relations, even though Kaepernick was ultimately unable to find a new team. In light of the week’s events, however, Lockhart is reconsidering.
“I was wrong,” Lockhart wrote. “I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were.”
Lockhart recounted the league’s efforts to convince teams to sign Kaepernick, but owners feared the quarterback would be bad for business. However, the dialogue on social justice that arose made Lockhart feel at the time that progress was made. Now, though, he thinks not enough was done, and urged the Minnesota Vikings to sign Kaepernick as an act of symbolism.
“As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings,” Lockhart wrote. “Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.”
Lockhart’s entire column is worth a read, whether you sympathize with him or not.
Current NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy, when asked for comment by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, simply stated that “Colin is a free agent. Clubs may sign him if they choose to do so.”
It’s good that Lockhart has realized this, but it shouldn’t have really taken an event like this to make it clear. After all, as Kaepernick’s mother pointed out, he was simply engaging in a peaceful protest. Don’t expect any NFL teams to take Lockhart’s advice right now, either.