Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the National Football League for collusion. He claims that NFL teams have not signed him because owners and executives of two or more teams have decided together not to signhim due to his political opinions.
Collusion requires cooperation between two or more teams—or any team and the NFL league office.
It is not unlikely that at some point this season or before it, the executives of some NFL team met to discuss signing a new quarterback and considered Kaepernick as an option. It is possible that the executives of this team decided against Kaepernick because they believe his actions and political views would be a distraction.
Instead, nearly every team that signed a quarterback over the past few months signed one with statistically worse numbers than Kaepernick.
This in and of itself is not collusion, even if several teams passed on him for similar reasons at several points during the season. The NFL rules state that there is nothing illegal about passing on Kaepernick simply because team executives don’t like him. To prove collusion, Kaepernick would have to prove that two or more teams conspired to deny him an opportunity in the NFL.
For Kaepernick’s grievance to be considered, he must find evidence of collusion: an email, text message or sworn testimony from a witness, for example. Kaepernick’s lawyers may have such evidence—but only time will tell.
This evidence of collusion must have occurred within the last 90 days, as the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement mandates that the grievance be within that time.
The simple fact that Kaepernick is statistically “better” than other quarterbacks in the league does not prove collusion. It really doesn’t prove anything as far as the NFL is concerned, considering these quarterbacks may have certain skills that a team is seeking.
Several analysts have also mentioned President Donald Trump and his comments on the situation. He has publicly tweeted his views that any player who kneels during the national anthem should be cut from the roster. This seems to be in the same vein as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ statement last week, who said that any player who kneels for the national anthem will not play in the game.
The difference, however, is that collusion with Trump does not prove collusion. Since Trump is not governed by the NFL, owners and executives agreeing with or even communicating with him are not legally relevant to collusion charges—though other Constitutional issues may arise from such communication.
At the beginning of the offseason, Kaepernick decided to opt out of his San Francisco 49ers contract, however, this is largely irrelevant to his collusion case; if teams colluded against him in recent months, his opting out of that contract for other reasons is inconsequential.
The same can be said if Kaepernick decides to forego contracts with NFL teams. He may not see eye to eye with some teams—like Jones and the Cowboys—or may not be offered a starting position, this does not defeat his case.
The overall outcome of this situation remains unknown. The timing could suggest that Kaepernick and his legal team feel they have enough evidence to move forward confidently with the grievance. The 90 day statute of limitations may have been about to expire. Or, it could be a way to keep his issues in the public eye in hopes of change and social reform.