If Al Davis was alive, Colin Kaepernick would be on the Raiders

If Al Davis was alive, Colin Kaepernick would be on the Raiders

Today’s NFL needs someone it can’t have, someone with the audacity to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing.

It needs a team owner with enough vision to see what’s coming in the world beyond football, understand its importance, and the backbone to act in the interest of the greater good.

The NFL needs Al Davis. Another Al Davis. The next Al Davis.

For all the public support Colin Kaepernick is getting from such players as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, his desire for an opportunity to compete for a job in the NFL requires a team owner willing to punch a hole in the convention that paralyzes fellow owners.

Kaepernick needs an owner with enough independence to reject the league’s dogma, capable of considering his ability to play quarterback but also admiring his courage to protest the inequality we all see but only some acknowledge.

If only a current owner had Al’s social conscience.

If Davis were still jabbing at shadows and raising hell, Kaepernick wouldn’t be awaiting a call from the Ravens or the Dolphins or any of the other quarterback-starved NFL teams that may -- or may not -- be pondering placing that call.

He’d be in Napa, in training camp with the Raiders.

We say this not simply because Davis liked what he saw of Kaepernick as the Raiders prepared for the 2011 draft. Hue Jackson, Oakland’s head coach at the time, insists that Davis had zeroed in on Kaepernick as a second-round pick -- only to have the 49ers move up and grab him. Davis was enamored of the powerful arm, deceptive mobility and visible leadership on display during four years at the University of Nevada-Reno. He also was impressed by Kaepernick’s three-sport stardom in high school in Turlock.

But it’s Al’s social convictions that would have opened the door for Kaepernick now, in the wake of a season during which his pregame demonstrations against police brutality wound up shoving him outside the NFL bubble.

No owner in NFL history was more comfortable going his own way than Davis, who died in October 2011 in the early-morning hours of Yom Kippur. He would seek solutions in places where others saw only problems.

Davis lived by a code that didn’t always pay off, but from which he never wavered. If he thought you could play, he gave you a chance. If he thought you could play but also stood for the right thing, he’d jump at giving you a chance. He stood by his own principles, sometimes to his detriment, while holding in high esteem those who believed in fairness and were loyal to those beliefs.

Does that not describe Kaepernick?

His plea for racial/ethnic equality is something for which Davis often fought, most notably in the 1960s. He understood Muhammad Ali’s greatest objective and personally did his part to advance it.

Davis was the first owner to hire a Latino head coach, Tom Flores, the first modern-era owner to hire an African-American head coach, Art Shell (who was hired twice) and the first to hire a female CEO, Amy Trask. As AFL commissioner, Davis hired the first black game official, Aaron Wade, and the first black league administrator, Brad Pye.

Yes, Al basked in the glory of being first. He liked being considered an innovator, but he loved his team and his players.

During a time of legislated racial segregation in parts of America -- and NFL teams employed a quota system regarding men of color -- Davis was brazenly recruiting athletes from historically black colleges and universities. When Raiders players came to him with objections over segregated lodging for a 1963 preseason game in the Deep South, Davis took action. Stood on principle. Moved the game to Oakland.

“He was the kind of man who was aware of the things we were facing and stood by us and supported us,” Raiders legend Clem Daniels, a member of that ’63 team, said several years ago. “I don’t know how many owners would have done that.”

Understand, Al Davis adored America. When he stood for the anthem, he did so while mouthing the words, with his right hand placed over his heart. He was a military buff. His patriotism was above reproach.

A conservative in some ways, Davis was progressive in others. He acknowledged and reacted to injustice. Al in his own way fought to improve the country he loved.

Which brings us back to Kaepernick. Is that not his goal?

The wink-and-nod campaign among owners to disenfranchise Kaepernick is presumably rooted in, of all things, the fear of alienating fans. Our fans are calling. Our fans are complaining. Our fans might boycott.

This is deep-fried dung, and the players know it. They can see right through it. They know it’s a deliberate plot of owners, most of them staunchly conservative, that like their boys to shut up and play. That’s why some of them are speaking out.

Sherman pointed out that NFL owners, by isolating Kaepernick, are sending a message to all players to “stay in your place.” Bennett, one of Sherman’s teammates in Seattle, points out the hypocrisy of owners embracing convicted felons but unable to find a place for a multi-skilled quarterback that once led a team to the Super Bowl and has a clean rap sheet.

Jenkins described team owners as “cowards.”

Al Davis was many things, but never a coward.

After making a succession of bad choices with coaches and players that dragged the Raiders to the bottom of the league, he spent the last years of his life trying to right his own wrongs. For most of his years, he was the owner whose teams won the vast majority of its games even while separating himself from the craven, and sometimes profoundly racist, instincts of his fellow owners. He didn’t care what they thought. His decisions were based on his beliefs.

Davis would know Kaepernick is good enough to get a chance, and he would believe the reasons behind his protest are worthwhile and even, gulp, honorable.

There is, thus far, no such NFL owner in 2017. What we have had is 32 individuals pacing the floor with heads down, sneaking peeks at each other, with not a single backbone among them.

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.

The charge is for assault of his sister's boyfriend in Smith's hometown of Pasadena. Smith allegedly beat and stomped the boyfriend's head on the morning of July 4, 2017 in Old Town Pasadena, the district attorney said.

Smith faces formal felony counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury to the victim.

The 30-year old plans to fight the charges levied against him. 

"Sean maintains his innocence at this time," Smith's attorney, Daniel Rosenberg told NBC Sports Califorinia on Thursday evening. "We are going to be entering a plea of not guilty and fighting these charges."

A warrant was filed on Aug. 16. Smith's arriagnment is scheduled for Sept. 29. 

Smith was not present at Thursday's Raiders practice, the last session of training camp. He surrendered to Los Angeles County authorities, posted an $80,000 bond and has been released from custody.

If convicted as charged, Smith could face a maximum sentence of seven years in California prison. 

A Raiders spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case is still under investigation by the Pasadena Police Department. 

This is another blow in a rough summer for Smith. He has struggled on the practice field during training camp and faces an off-field legal issue. Smith is guaranteed $9.5 million for the 2017 season. 

More to come...

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

NAPA – Marshawn Lynch spoke with the media Thursday for the second time as a Raider. He was quick-witted, disarming and, as always, not suitable for work.

It was five minutes of peak Marshawn, where he brought light to his charitable endeavors, called himself the “daddy” of his position group and cleverly sidestepped all things nation anthem.

He was asked four questions on other topics before elephant in the room was mentioned. It didn’t stick around long.

“I think the elephant left the room because a little mouse ran in here,” Lynch deadpanned. “Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That [expletive] left the room, cousin.”

[RATTO: Lynch reminds media how much control he exerts over any interaction]

Two more related questions came down the pike. The first was about Del Rio letting players be themselves. He answered a different question instead.

“Yeah, because on ‘doctor-24,’ it’s a designed way that you’re supposed to run it but I have all freedom to go any way that I choose to run it,” Lynch said. “I would say, yes.”

The final anthem-esque query was deflected in a similar fashion.

“When we run ‘74’ or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult. For the most part, I’m a veteran so I can make it work.”

Two things were crystal clear after speaking with Lynch.

He didn’t miss football one bit during his year in retirement. Lynch said this spring he decided to return after the Raiders were approved to relocate away from his native Oakland. He wants to represent his hometown well and give them something to cheer before the team leaves for Las Vegas.

That’s why he’s fired up even for Saturday’s exhibition against the Rams – he’s expected to make a cameo in that game – his first in Oakland wearing silver and black.

“It’s truly a blessing and just to have the opportunity to go and do that is a good [expletive] feeling,” Lynch said. “It’s a good [expletive] feeling.”

Lynch has always been active in the community, and hopes him playing here will bring more visibility to what’s being done to help kids in Oakland.

“I plan on continuing to do what I do in the community,” Lynch said. “It’ll probably be that now that I’m here, more people that are in the community might actually come out and support what it is that we’ve got going on.”