SBD/October 16, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Colin Kaepernick Files Grievance Against NFL Owners Claiming Collusion

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Kaepernick did not file his grievance with the NFLPA, but the union said it supports him
Colin Kaepernick has "filed a grievance under the CBA" against NFL owners "for collusion," according to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman. Kaepernick has retained attorney Mark Geragos, who has "represented numerous high profile clients" (TWITTER.com, 10/15). Geragos "sent a copy of the complaint to the NFLPA, as well as the NFL and all 32 teams." He said in a statement that Kaepernick filed the grievance "only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.'' A source said that Kaepernick's grievance will be "overseen by Stephen Burbank, the NFL's special master, who will likely hold a conference call with both sides this week" (ESPN.com, 10/15). NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart said that the league had "no comment." USA TODAY's Mike Jones notes Kaepernick chose not to file the grievance with the NFLPA and "let the union's lawyers engage in the legal fight for him." However, a source said that "despite that move -- which isn’t unique to Kaepernick -- the NFLPA remains in support of Kaepernick’s decision to file the grievance using his own lawyer because he is within his rights to do so." If the arbitrator "finds there was collusion, Kaepernick would receive at least twice the amount" he would likely have been paid. Any club found to have to colluded would be fined $5M -- money that would "go to the NFL player pension fund or similar fund --- and the team’s cap room could be impacted" (USA TODAY, 10/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote it is "unclear why Kaepernick and his advisors did not inform the union about the grievance, but the union still seems to think it has a role in helping Kaepernick fight to get back on the field" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/15).

CAUSE AND EFFECT
: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes the move "threatens to escalate a billowing dispute that has galvanized many players who believe the owners are penalizing Kaepernick, who began kneeling to raise awareness of social injustice, including police brutality against black Americans" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton notes the action is likely to "inflame an already delicate situation in which the league has tried to publicly support its players’ right to protest while also avoiding alienating many fans who find the demonstrations unpatriotic." The Kaepernick matter also "presents another headache for a league that is already battling sagging ratings, mounting concerns about concussions and injuries to several of its most high-profile players" (WSJ.com, 10/16). Meanwhile, PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cites a source as saying that Kaepernick "wants to trigger termination" of the current CBA. A section of the CBA "allows for the agreement to be terminated prematurely in the event of proof of collusion." Termination can arise from "only one incident of collusion involving only one player if there is clear and convincing evidence of a violation" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/15).

COULD BE TOUGH TO PROVE: ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote Kaepernick and his reps "face a high bar to prove that NFL owners have colluded to keep him out of the league this season." The CBA "makes clear that the failure to sign a player is not in itself enough to prove collusion." Instead, it "must be combined with evidence that teams entered into an agreement, express or implied, to bar the player's employment." Kaepernick's grievance "does not provide any specific evidence of an agreement to collude." It "vaguely references" NFL GMs who have "cited 'directives from NFL owners to not let Kaepernick so much as practice with an NFL team.'" It also "accuses owners of submitting to the demands" of President Trump, whom it "terms 'an organizing force' in squashing what has become a weekly protest among at least some NFL players" (ESPN.com, 10/15). ESPN's Ryan Smith said it will be "really tough" for Kaepernick to prove collusion. Smith: "He's got to prove either two teams or a few teams or a team in the NFL got together and tried to keep him from employment, and he's got to prove that by clear and convincing evidence, so he's going to produce something actual. E-mails, something in writing ... and that's very difficult to do" ("GMA," ABC, 10/16). THE MMQB's Peter King writes he is "skeptical" Kaepernick's attorney will "find any evidence to prove that multiple NFL owners, or the league office, colluded to deny Kaepernick employment." This also "may not be the best thing to get Kaepernick on an NFL roster, but the more noise that’s made about Kaepernick not being given a chance to play the better" (SI.com, 10/16). 49ers S Eric Reid, Kaepernick's former teammate who has continued to demonstrate during the national anthem, said, "It sure does seem like he’s being blackballed. I think all the stats prove that he’s an NFL-worthy quarterback. So that’s his choice and I support his decision" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/16).

PACKERS COULD USE KAP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could be out for the rest of the season after breaking his collarbone against the Vikings yesterday, and THE MMQB's King writes the Packers should call Kaepernick to "see if he’d be willing to come in as a backup" to QB Brett Hundley. If the Packers are "impressed enough with his approach and his condition, they could sign him and groom him to be Hundley’s backup." King: "Maybe Kaepernick can be a fit. Maybe he can’t. And this grievance Kaepernick filed could complicate things too. I just know that if I were the Packers, I would want to feel very good about my quarterback situation when the rest of my team is a solid playoff contender" (SI.com, 10/16).
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