Commentary: Kaepernick not a hypocrite for taking settlement but still should have let collusion hearing play out

Over the weekend, the NFL reached a settlement with Colin Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid, ending their claims of collusion – specifically, claims that team owners had blackballed them because they had protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

It was scheduled to go to a full hearing soon.

Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported that NFL team officials are speculating that Kaepernick was paid in the range of $60-80 million. That number is not official, but we can all agree that the amount he was paid was pretty substantial.

And I admit that my take will likely invite criticism from both sides of this debate. But let’s dissect the interpretations first.

Kaepernick supporters will call this a huge win. Remember, an arbitrator had already denied a league request to dismiss the complaint, likely because there was enough evidence to go to a full hearing. So it’s pretty clear that Kaepernick’s lawyers likely had enough ammunition through depositions of the league’s owners and coaches to do some damage in an arbitration hearing – to expose harmful details to prove their case.

This was simply the league’s best chance to do some damage control, preventing a potential PR nightmare.

It’s similar to the league’s billion-dollar concussion settlement. The NFL rarely settles, unless it absolutely has to.

But Kaepernick detractors will immediately rip him for taking a deal. They’ll label him a sellout or a hypocrite. After all, Kaepernick’s already made more than $40 million in his career. He’s making even more money from his endorsement deal with Nike. And now, he’s taking a lump sum of money from the league to stay quiet.

So here goes: In my mind, Kaepernick is NOT a hypocrite or a sellout. But he still should have seen this thing through to the end.

First, he’s not a hypocrite, because there’s a big difference between his case and his cause. His case was claiming collusion by the NFL. His cause was (is) fighting social injustice. The two are mutually exclusive. This settlement is a huge win in regards to his case against the league. And it also allows him to focus his new money and attention on a cause to which he has already donated $1 million. I hope you see the difference.

The problem is – many casual observers mistakenly link his case and cause together as the same thing. So when Kaepernick settles, they incorrectly interpret that as dropping his cause in favor of hush money.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And that’s why I believe that the court of public opinion could’ve been swayed in Kaepernick’s favor if he had gone forward with the hearing. He had the league with its pants down – so why not expose it? To me, the ultimate vindication would have been earning a huge payday while also showing how right he actually was, and letting the entire world see it.

The problem is, he still wants to play. His lawyer said so yesterday. Had he exposed and thoroughly embarrassed the league in a full hearing, that probably would never happen. It’s a Catch 22.

So Kaepernick now gets his settlement money. He might even get the chance to play again. And the court of public opinion remains split.

Maybe it was asking too much of Kaepernick to take this hearing to the bitter end. But at the expense of his NFL career, it would have provided a lot more clarity for those still on the fence.

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