Can we just leave politics out of sports?
Oh, I know what some of you are thinking: Wait a second Gorch, you just wrote a column last week about it being our right to protest during the national anthem.
Let me clarify … I wholeheartedly agree that we all have the right to protest peacefully (and choosing to sit or kneel during a song that shouldn’t be our national anthem is quite peaceful).
I just wish it wouldn’t be such a hot-button issue right now, centered on former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick still without a job in the third week of the preseason.
Never in my lifetime have non-sports issues been so prevalent in sports coverage. At least I don’t remember it being this over the top.
Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem last year is definitely a big reason he hasn’t been offered a job by any National Football League team.
Anyone who disagrees would be wrong.
Ending his contract with the 49ers was his choice. He opted out of the deal because he thought he had a chance to be a starter somewhere else instead of a backup in San Fran.
Perhaps Kaepernick regrets that decision, even though he did say he wouldn’t protest during the national anthem anymore.
Erasing public opinion about him isn’t as easy as just saying, “Hey, I’m not going to protest anymore.” Fans have long memories and steadfast opinions most of the time.
Really, though, this blackballing has got to end.
Now before you retort with something to the tune of, “he’s not being blackballed,” let’s define that harsh word.
It means “to vote against; to exclude from membership by casting a negative vote.”
Cowering to fan pressure not to sign Kaepernick is what NFL team owners are doing right now, choosing to ‘exclude him from membership,’ even though there was a large protest outside NFL headquarters in New York earlier this week trying to do the opposite in pushing teams to sign him.
Key words here are fan pressure. A couple teams had Kaepernick work out for them, and the general managers said the right thing. But enough fans in those cities protested that the owner was afraid of some sort of backlash.
Don’t think I know what I’m talking about? I happen to be part of an ownership group — a Green Bay Packers’ shareholder — and I know a ton of Packers’ fans in conservative northern Wisconsin who want nothing to do with Kaepernick.
Every team has a conservative segment of its fan base — some bigger than others — that have been polled about the Kaepernick. According to a Yougov.com poll last season during the height of his anthem protest, 85 percent of Republicans disapproved, while 54 percent of Democrats approved and 20 percent of Dems were neutral.
San Francisco, ironically, is probably the best place for Kaepernick with a significantly liberal population (according to a forbes.com poll, it’s the most liberal city in America), but he chose to leave because he would have been a backup QB, and like any red-blooded American worker, he thinks he deserves a promotion.
Economics might come into play with some teams, but NFL salary caps are so high, there are probably only a few that would have zero room for Kaepernick.
Right down I-65 is a team that really could use him, but there’s no way the Indianapolis Colts will sign him.
Vanishing playoff hopes are a big reason the Colts need to bring in Kaepernick since starter Andrew Luck may not be ready for the start of the season due to shoulder surgery.
Each of Luck’s first three seasons with complete, 16 games started for the former Stanford QB. But the last two years have been injury-riddled with only seven games played in 2015 and one game missed last year, though he wasn’t close to 100 percent and the one game he missed likely cost the Colts a playoff spot.
Scott Tolzien, a former backup in Green Bay who was let go because he was terrible in two starts when Aaron Rodgers was out in 2013, was Luck’s backup last year, and in the one game he started, Indy lost to the Steelers.
A win would have tied the Colts with Houston and Tennessee for first in the division and Luck would have given them a much, much better chance to win.
Justifying the signing of Kaepernick with a very conservative population in the majority of Indiana would be an impossible task.
Outrage would be rampant, and Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay isn’t exactly popular as it is.
But Kaepernick would help the Colts survive future Luck injuries — and there will be more of those behind a subpar offensive line — and win more games. And that’s true for multiple teams. Simply put, just look back at the first letter of each paragraph to figure it out since one of my favorite superhero villains is the Riddler.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at email@example.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.