NEW YORK — A former New York City police officer, whose claims of police corruption in the 1970s were chronicled in an Al Pacino movie, joined dozens of current and former officers Saturday at a rally in support of getting quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job in the National Football League.
The former San Francisco 49ers player became a controversial figure last year after he refused to stand for the national anthem in what he called a protest against oppression of people of color.
He opted out of his contract in March and became a free agent, but so far, no NFL teams have signed him for the upcoming season.
The gathering in Brooklyn featured about 75 mostly minority officers wearing black T-shirts reading "#imwithkap."
One exception was retired officer Frank Serpico, whose exploits were featured in the 1973 film, "Serpico."
He admitted not being a football fan, but said he felt it was important to support Kaepernick for his stance.
"He's trying to hold up this government up to our founding fathers," said the now 81-year-old Serpico.
Sgt. Edwin Raymond, who said he was heading to work after the rally, spoke of the need for racial healing in the country.
"Until racism in America is no longer taboo, we own up to it, we admit it, we understand it and then we do what we have to do to solve it, unfortunately we're going to have these issues," he said.
I hadn’t considered the notion of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles bombing quite so badly Thursday night, so I hadn’t considered the notion advanced by Pro Football Talk Friday morning that Jacksonville might be a great place for Colin Kaepernick.
That’s because I long ago stopped considering the idea that Kaepernick’s exile from football was, or is, about football. It isn’t. He is the example for future player/miscreants, and trotting his name out every time a quarterback in the new NFL vomits up a practice game on national television is simply perpetuating a lie.
Until someone gets so desperate that it isn’t any more.
That’s the problem with being so definitive about Kaepernick’s perpetual ban. It only takes one owner with a willingness to stick a middle finger up to the objections and say, “I own a football team, not some branch of the USO” to end this national spitfest once and for all. And yes, I say owner because this is an owner’s decision, solely and completely. In the hypothetical of Kaepernick the Jaguar, it will be made not by Doug Marrone, who is merely a coach, or by Tom Coughlin, who is only the general manager, but Shahid Khad, one of the brightest and quietly more powerful owners in the league.
But the odds still scream No Kaep For You, because it would mean that exhibition games matter for judgmental purposes (which they don’t), that Bortles is somehow worse than half the quarterbacks in the NFL (he is part of an amorphous blob of non-producers whose numbers are growing as the differences between college and pro football offenses expand), and that owners easily break away from the herd once the herd has decided on something (Khan is not a rebel in the Jerry Jones mold by any means).
In other words, I remain unconvinced that there is a place for Colin Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL. And he’s probably better off.
Marshawn Lynch is in many ways the perfect provocateur to advance the Colin Kaepernick story (if that's what he was doing) because, unlike most athletes, he operates serenely yet obstinately as though he has nothing to lose.
That is, after all, the ultimate leverage.
Thus, when he sat through the national anthem in Glendale Saturday night eating a banana with two Oakland Raiders staffers standing in front of him, it was a gesture that was left for the observer to interpret.
Maybe he was speaking out for Kaepernick. Maybe he was protesting the terrorist events in Charlottesville, Va. Maybe he was making a different political point. Maybe he was just making a statement about the value of potassium in a daily diet.
But Lynch doesn’t do things for no reason at all. He is his own statement, and even if he doesn’t tell you what the statement is, he also won’t back away from it.
So the scene of him sitting and eating while the rest of the stadium was displaying varying states of faux- and for-real patriotism became its own parlor game: “What did it mean?” “What did he say?” “Why didn’t he say anything?” “Did he mean what he didn’t say?”
We do know that Lynch knows how people outside his circle react to him, and how little he cares. He is inheriting the wind knowing full well where it will come from, and with a pretty good idea how hard it will blow. And, mime that he is, he left without offering a comment to insure that the debate would run wild before he put parameters on it.
He told head coach Jack Del Rio about his thoughts to sitting during the anthem after the game, and that he hasn’t stood for the anthem in 11 years, which begs two questions: “Nobody noticed?” and “Nobody cared?”
And if both these things are true, the NFL’s conspiracy of silence re: Kaepernick is all the more curious. If Lynch sat out the anthem for a decade and the league had no issue, why is Kaepernick Public Example No. 1?
But more to the point, is the league ready to make Lynch Public Example No. 2? Unlike Kaepernick, he is under contract and an active player, and would have to be cut by the Raiders to introduce the possibility of a blackballing.
All we know for now, though, is that Marshawn Lynch essentially said, “Bring it. But first, figure it out.”
Because, after all, Lynch being Lynch, this really could be just about potassium after all. That’s not the way to bet, mind you, but it isn’t out of the question either.