The San Francisco 49ers are putting a ring of honor (or in its proper capitalized form, a Ring of Honor) at Levi’s Stadium to note the contributions of players who predated the Jed Administration, and for those of you who go for this kind of thing, swell. I mean, if you can’t fill the place with ads for high-end sandwich shops, you have to fill the space some other way.
But of all the names of deserving former players there are (I’d guess they could easily race past 75 in one lunchtime staff meeting), the one name that won’t be – and should – is Colin Kaepernick’s.
Not for the reason you think, though.
America can’t quit Kaepernick. He is in his way every bit as famous as any 49er ever because, without him saying a word, his name is invoked almost incessantly – as click bait, as a political stalking horse, as a condemnation of the NFL’s ability to locate quarterbacks that don’t sickens its 32 fan bases, as a treatise on what is and what is not patriotism -- all of it and more.
Just today, CBS Sports head Sean McManus told Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch that Kaepernick’s protest had an impact on ratings in 2016, only days after Fox’ Mike Mulvihill said just the opposite to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand. It also came a day after Aaron Rodgers told ESPN’s Mina Kimes that Kaepernick is clearly being blackballed by the league for his social stance, and the same day that NFL.com’s Albert Breer quoted three anonymous general managers comparing Kaepernick’s situation to Robert Griffin III’s.
In short, Kaepernick is now the biggest name, at least in terms of other people wanting to invoke it either at random or for a specific reason, in team history. We can't stop. We WON'T stop. Heroin is easier to kick.
Now that deserves some recognition.
Not that it would happen this way, of course. Jed York was supportive of Kaepernick when he protested a year ago, but he’s not going to bite his wallet to spite his nose.
But while “honor” is clearly an eye-of-the-beholder thing (me, I find him well within honor tolerances), if you’re talking notoriety in this no-subject-left-uncrushed-by-the-news-cycle world, he renders even Joe Montana a “sorry, who is this you speak of” figure.
And he doesn’t have to do anything at all to have it happen. Whether that’s honor to you or not, it is damned impressive – impressive enough, I put it to you, to fill the space where a sign for “Al’s Bail Bonds” would otherwise go.