Good For Colin Kaepernick

Well, I’ve been away for a while (sorry Will), but I am back to talk about probably the most controversial issue in sports.

At some point, I knew I was going to have to weigh in on this one. He has quickly become the most polarizing person in America not named Donald Trump (cause no one is touching him in that category). He is making a difference and in many ways showing that there is still a lot of racism and social injustice in this country.

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Kaepernick has not played in a regular season game this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

His method hasn’t been perfect, but Colin Kaepernick is turning heads and igniting a conversation about social injustice in the United States. Not to mention that his jersey sales are through the roof. And rather than just pocket the gains, Kaepernick is pledging the proceeds to local communities.

In theory, Kaepernick shouldn’t be anything people pay attention to, but he has become the most polarizing player in the NFL since maybe Tim Tebow. Cops and military personnel around the country have been split on support or disdain for Kaepernick. San Francisco police unions even threatened to stop working 49er games.

Fan reaction overall has been very split. According to a survey of 1,100 NFL fans, Kaep was named the most disliked player in the league. However, his jersey sales led the league in the month of September. Kaep took the proceeds he received and donated it to local Bay Area communities.

Kaepernick definitely crossed the line a little bit with his choice of socks, but outside of that, I really feel that he has done nothing wrong. NFL players are not required, only encouraged, to stand during the national anthem.

All of us are familiar with the first amendment. Many of us cite it all the time as one of the greatest things about our country. It ensures that people like me can continue to pursue a career in journalism. Freedom of speech is an important thing in this country. People seem infuriated by Kaepernick doing one of the most American things possible. He is evoking his first amendment rights to spark a conversation about American society.

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A handful of Kaepernick’s teammates have joined him in the quiet protest. (Wikimedia Commons)

And Kaep has accomplished a lot of what he set out to do. He has started that conversation and it is being held by all of us across the country. Other sports leagues are taking notice. Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was under the spotlight when he said that MLB players weren’t doing enough. Several NBA teams are joining arms in a sign of unity during the national anthem, similar to how the Seattle Seahawks did when they played the rival 49ers. Even soccer got in on the action as Megan Rapinoe started taking a knee during the nation anthem while playing for the U.S. Women’s National team.

Several times in history, sports have been an area where social and political protests start. This is no different than any other protest in history. I applaud Kaepernick for what he has done so far in starting this conversation. I think it is one that needs to be had.

I get that a lot of people are not happy with his actions. I know that September 11 is a day that hits home for all of us and that NFL players protesting on that day is bordering on insensitive, but isn’t it more insensitive if we don’t listen? This is no secret that our country has issues with the way that police and minorities interact. It might be nobody’s fault, but that does not mean that the problem should be ignored. Kaepernick found a way to start the conversation. Now it is our job to continue it.

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Guilty until proven innocent

It is hard to objectively watch sports. There is so much emotion involved, both positive and negative, that drives fans to have slanted views.

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez will make his final appearance in a Yankee uniform Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, there are few people who do not have an opinion. There is a lot of love and hate surrounding him. I can’t say that I know many people who fall somewhere in between.

I will readily admit that I lean more to the side that hates him than loves him. I have my reasons, but that’s not actually what I am interested in talking about here.

A-Rod is one of the most polarizing players ever, and maybe the most in the last 25 years, for baseball. He has hit 696 home runs, won a World Series and been named AL MVP twice. He also has been caught using steroids multiple times, sued MLB and the MLBPA and lied about his use of PEDs. He is a flawed figure no doubt, but one that could really play baseball.

Tonight, this maligned, aging player will likely play in his last game as a professional. Certainly as a Yankee, but I don’t foresee too many teams being interested in him down the road. There has been a lot of talk about Rodriguez’s history and the reasons for the hate. Most of them center around his lack of cooperation when he was accused of using PEDs. He lied, he pointed the blame elsewhere, he threw his doctors and coaches under the bus. It certainly wasn’t a good look.

Rodriguez, with some help from Ryan Braun, has highlighted the development of believing athletes are guilty until proven innocent. And those are just the baseball guys. The cases of Ray Rice, Oscar Pistorious and Jerry Sandusky have contributed to this perpetuating doubt when a player is accused of breaking the rules or the law.

It has become the reality of sports. Tom Brady was immediately assumed guilty in his Deflategate scandal. Whether he was guilty or not, Brady was always in the position of needing to prove his innocence. From the second the question is raised, we all as sports fans jump to the conclusion that the player is guilty and we hold onto our doubt until they are completely cleared. And sometimes we even hold onto it after that.

We no longer will grant athletes the benefit of the doubt. We expect the athlete to complete explain himself or herself right away, otherwise face the wrath of our conviction.

And you cannot really blame the fans for this skepticism after what has happened with Rodriguez. He admitted to using PEDs in 2001 while with the Texas Rangers back in 2009. Then when the Biogenesis scandal was uncovered in 2013, Rodriguez tried to act like he had been duped. In the end, it turned out that Rodriguez was trying to cover everything up, leaving fans furious and with a feeling that they had been played.

Rodriguez tried so hard to beat the system and avoid the suspension associated with the actions he committed and that more than anything else has left sports fans jaded. It is one thing to break the rules or the law if you own up to it. It is another to break the rules or the law and then deny it ever happened and avoid the consequences. For all sports fans, that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Now, it probably isn’t fair to blame this all on A-Rod, but the reality is that he is the pinnacle point of this idea. Fans can no longer give players the benefit of the doubt, because of how far from the truth the athlete can be.

Have we seen the last of Johnny Manziel?

In the past I have defended Johnny Manziel. That ends here. He lost my support. He has proven to me that he does not belong in this league.

Johnny Manziel 2014
Manziel became a fan favorite in Cleveland before he ever played a down in the NFL.

Rumors surfaced yesterday that the Browns coaching staff and management was done with Johnny Manziel. Who can blame them? He might have generated a lot of excitement and fan fair when he drafted, but Manziel has been nothing but a pain in the ass since he walked through the door two years ago. He has shown himself to be unreliable, immature and uncommitted.

It pains me to say these things about Manziel. He is one of my favorite players to watch. He is riveting on the field. He has the potential to be electric. He makes you gasp and groan and everything in between. Unfortunately, off the field, he often makes you shake your head and now Manziel is in hot water for his latest antics.

The 23-year old was inactive this week due to a concussion, so Manziel decided he didn’t want to be with the team. He was reportedly spotted in Las Vegas last night, before the Browns season finale with the Steelers. He was supposed to show up for a scheduled meeting with team doctors on Sunday morning, but failed to appear. This was the final straw for Cleveland, who has been trying to police this kid from day one. Between DUIs and rehab stints, Manziel has been a tabloid writer’s dream.

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Manziel did post a 54.7 Total QBR rating this season, which was fractionally better than Cleveland’s other quarterback, Josh McCown.

Rumor has it that Manziel is interested in leaving the Browns in order to join the Cowboys during the offseason. Remember, Dallas showed a lot of interest in Manziel during the 2014 draft and came close to selecting him in the middle of the first round. With his track record though, you have to start wondering if Manziel wants to play for the Cowboys, or hit the Dallas party scene with a couple of the team’s cheerleaders.

It is hard to name a player who has been more irresponsible during his first two seasons in the NFL. Sure, every player has their own adjustment period when they join the league but Manziel doesn’t show any signs of settling down. He just keeps doing whatever he pleases, making it clear just how selfish he is as a teammate.

The Browns are already an embarrassment of a franchise. Since 1999, Cleveland have just two winning seasons and played in just one playoff game. The Browns also managed to churn through 26 starting quarterbacks during that time span. This team is already down and out, they certainly don’t need things like videos of their starting quarterback drunk at a house party cropping up online. No franchise needs that.

Manziel has burned his only bridge in Cleveland. I can’t imagine that many teams will touch the former Texas A&M Heisman winner with a 10-foot pole. He brings with him a media hailstorm, a questionable work ethic, a tendency to get into trouble and a lack of production.

Johnny Manziel
Manziel has failed to live up to expectations heaped on him when he arrived in Cleveland.

It is easy to pretend that Manziel’s problems are solely off the field. He struggles a lot on the field as well. He has posted a 57 percent completion rate in his two seasons, while turning the ball over 14 times. He averages a lackluster 6.5 yards per attempt and lacks the mechanics of a pro quarterback. If you watch him play, it is rare that Manziel looks to more than his first option before he starts to scramble.

On all sides, Manziel is a mess. He is a middling quarterback with an attitude problem and an inability to stay out of trouble. Even if he says that he just did not like Cleveland and he would be willing to do all the right things for a different team, what does that say about his demeanor and character? That is not the type of guy that I would want in my locker room.

Jerry Jones
Dallas selected offensive linemen Zach Martin instead of Manziel in 2014.

However, Jerry Jones showed earlier this year that he was not afraid of a potential locker room cancer. He signed Greg Hardy, who immediately flared up and started fights with coaches and teammates. Jones responded by saying he wanted to resign Hardy. Jones was also apparently at the forefront of the bring Manziel to Dallas campaign back in 2014. Something tells me that he is salivating at the thought of bring him in from Cleveland. He will surely cite Dallas’ shakiness at the quarterback position behind Tony Romo as a justification for bringing Manziel on, if he does choose to sign him.

I think Dallas is the only team that might give Manziel a shot, otherwise, we could see Manziel take the route of another polarizing former Heisman trophy winning first round selection in Tim Tebow. Could you imagine those two working together on the SEC Network? Oh what I would give to listen to those off-camera conversations.

Back to the point, Manziel has made it very difficult for any general manager to consider signing him. There are simply too many red flags surrounding him. More and more frequently, teams are staying away from players with any character issues.

Maybe Manziel would straighten himself out with another team. Maybe he would benefit from learning for a year behind a veteran quarterback. Maybe he would play better with a better supporting cast. All of this is plausible but I don’t know if we will ever find out. If Dallas will not sign him, I think we have seen the last of Johnny Manziel.

Enough is Enough: Domestic Violence in the NFL has Reached a Breaking Point

For anyone who reads this blog regularly, you know how I feel about Greg Hardy. I have called for him to be punished by the league. I have questioned whether or not he actually learned anything from his domestic violence case. He seems to still think he is completely innocent. With our legal system, you remain innocent until proven guilty. Up until now, nothing grabbed the public’s attention enough to make them think he was clearly guilty.

Well there is finally proof. Deadspin released photos on Friday of Nicole Holder, Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, the night of her fight with Hardy. The photo’s are pretty gruesome and disturbing but they are undeniable proof that Hardy did everything he was accused of.

Yet, Hardy still walks around a free man. Completely untouched by the law or the league for his actions. He even still plays in the NFL and his general manager/owner/billionaire football fan Jerry Jones wants to give him a contract extension. Jones has even gone as far to call Hardy a leader on the Cowboys.

That statement is simply laughable after Hardy accosted special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia when Dallas gave up a kickoff return touchdown against the Giants. That blow up was quickly followed by a verbal argument with star wide receiver Dez Bryant on the sideline. Not exactly screaming leadership right there.

Bottom line, Greg Hardy does not deserve to be in the NFL. Probably for a number of reasons, but most importantly for the fact that he assaulted a women and threatened to kill her. I don’t care how good you are at football. When you do something like that, you don’t deserve a second chance.

I don’t want to hear well everyone deserves a second chance nonsense either. This isn’t Josh Gordon smoking pot or Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg. This is Hardy beating a woman to the point where she asked him to just end it and kill her.

The Cowboys should cut Hardy right now. I don’t care how good of a pass rusher he is. Ray Rice is no longer in this league because teams refuse to sign him. Obviously, Rice is a different caliber player than Hardy, as in he wasn’t as highly valued but that should not matter here. The league as a whole took a stand by not signing him. It was publicly blown up just how horrible a thing Rice did to his then-fiance. The video of Rice punching his wife in the face and knocking her cold made its rounds on the internet and no one had any sympathy for him after that.

Well here is your smoking gun. We finally see just what the result of Hardy’s outburst was and it honestly might have been worse than what Rice did. He left Holder wanting death, covered in bruises and abrasions.

Unfortunately, Holder understood that these professional athletes are just about untouchable. They, time and time again, get away with domestic violence issues without being put away. It is not just contained to Rice and Hardy.

One of the first incidents I could find of domestic violence in the NFL dates back over a decade ago to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman. Pittman reportedly rammed his car into another one that held his wife, then two-year old daughter and the child’s baby sitter. He was charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence charges. Those were dropped though when he plead guilty to endangerment charges instead. He received a 30-day jail sentence, of which he served 14 days before he was released. The NFL also gave Pittman a three-game suspension to open the 2004 season. In 2011, Pittman was arrested again for a physical altercation with his wife. Clearly, he learned a lot from his initial punishment.

It continued with Dwayne Carswell, a former Denver Broncos tight end, later that year. Carswell was arrested for picking up his girlfriend by the neck. He pleaded no contest and the NFL gave him a one-game suspension. However, that wasn’t the first incident in which Carswell was accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck, yet both times he managed to avoid jail time.

Fast forward to 2011, when Chris Cook of the Minnesota Vikings was charged with felony assault for beating his girlfriend. The NFL suspended him indefinitely and he missed the rest of the 2011 season. Cook’s girlfriend had a perforated eardrum, a bloody nose and marks on her neck that were consistent with strangulation. He said he was provoked though when his girlfriend threw a shoe at him. Somehow, Cook got off on all charges and returned to the Vikings the following season, never facing any jail time or further suspension.

There have been two other players not named Greg Hardy suspended for domestic violence in 2015 as well, and like Hardy, neither of them served any jail time.

From what I was able to find, eight NFL players in the last 11 years have been suspended for domestic violence and none of them have spent more than 14 days in jail. Pittman was the only one to ever serve any jail time. Everyone else inexplicably got off with probation or community service.

I’m not saying that no one deserves a second chance, but these players do not. They have not earned the right to represent the NFL any longer. Players who do their time at least deserve to be considered for a return.

I mentioned Burress earlier. He never harmed anyone but himself and he spent 20 months in prison. Michael Vick was involved with a dog fighting ring and earned himself 17 months in prison. I’m not saying that Burress and Vick didn’t deserve their time in prison, I’m merely pointing out that these guys actually paid for the crimes they committed. And when they returned, they still faced ridicule and questions about whether or not they deserved to be back.

It seems a little disproportionate to me that a man who shot himself in the thigh and a man who organized a dog fighting ring spent a combined 37 months in prison while eight men arrested on varying levels of domestic violence and assault charges have totaled just 14 days behind bars. Those numbers are simply baffling and no one has done anything to change that.

NFL players continue to be excused for assault and remain in the league most of the time. Rice is the first noticeable example of a player not allowed back for domestic violence. And that wasn’t due to a policy the league enacted, it was simply due to the public backlash that would have came with signing him. The consequences for not properly punishing them are clear as well as we have players like Pittman and Carswell arrested on multiple occasions for the same reason.

Actions speak much louder than words. It is clear that these players have not learned anything from their respective instances. Hardy already is acting like a bully off the field and making sexist comments about opponent’s wives.

Getting these players to understand that their actions are unacceptable needs to be part of the process. So far, nothing that the legal system or the league has done has had too many lasting effects on those players responsible for domestic violence issues. There needs to be an overhaul.

The NFL should not allow these cowardly men to return to the league. They are a disgrace to football as a whole and they are a very poor representation of the game. No man should ever harm a women. I have no tolerance or respect for those who do. As a fan of the NFL, I sincerely hope they aren’t around much longer.

How much longer is the NFL going to put up with Greg Hardy?

There are some players, no matter how talented they are, that just should not be playing in the National Football League (see Rice, Ray). Greg Hardy is quickly putting himself into that same category as someone who the NFL does not need playing.

Greg HardyIt was well documented this offseason that Hardy was in a court battle over his domestic abuse incident involving his girlfriend. Hardy received a 10-game suspension from the NFL for the 2015 season, which he appealed and was then reduced to four games.

Hardy has been back on the field for only a limited time and he has made his presence felt. He picked up eight tackles and three sacks in his last two contests. However, it has been the impact Hardy has made off the field that is much more noticeable.

Obviously, Hardy is a man with character issues. Anyone who assaults his girlfriend and then defends it as if it wasn’t his fault has character issues. That was a risk for the Cowboys as soon as they signed him. Hardy is certainly a controversial figure but Dallas seemed to brush that aside.

Convincing yourself that you will be able to control a volatile player is a poor idea. The Cowboys clearly thought they had a handle on Hardy and boy were they wrong.

Somehow, Hardy walked away from this without a fine, suspension or any punishment from the team. That has to leave most fans scratching their heads and wondering why.

Well at least the Cowboys aren’t praising him for this kind of behavior, right?

Hold the phone, after all of that, Dallas not only isn’t having a reaction to Greg Hardy’s outburst, they want to give him a contract extension? Jerry Jones has seriously lost his mind here. In watching that first video of Hardy’s outburst from last Sunday, it is clear that he is a locker room cancer. He got into a fight with star wide receiver Dez Bryant over the issue. It seemed as though Bryant was telling Hardy that he was out of line and needed to respect the coaches. Bryant has never been the best at following team rules so if he thinks that Hardy is overboard then you know something is wrong.

It also shows how much Hardy only thinks about himself. He isn’t a team player at all and decided to take his anger out on a coach. If I were the Cowboys front office, I would’ve already suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team. Hardy is a menace of a player and not in a positive way.

If Dallas is unwilling to make the proper decision here, then the NFL needs to step in. Verbal confrontation with a coach is one thing but Hardy’s physical retaliation should be more than enough to warrant at least a fine. In all honesty, Hardy shouldn’t even be playing right now in the first place because his suspension should never have been overturned so I’m surprised that the league isn’t jump all over this situation.

Making excuses for players that have talent coupled with poor attitude can tear apart a team. We saw it happen to the 2012 Jets with Santonio Holmes. Jim Harbaugh turned out to alienate the entire locker room last year. Brandon Marshall even took shots at Jay Cutler over the last two years. Team’s can implode if they are distracted off the field issues. The Cowboys already sit at 2-5. You would think they’d realize that they need to turn things around.

It is not easy to punish a top player like Hardy when he is doing so much for your team on the field. But the Cowboys need to step up and take a stand. If they let this continue, Hardy becomes bigger than the team and gets to play by his own rules.

I’m tired of watching Greg Hardy be a bully. Hopefully, the NFL is too.