So Colin Kaepernick can’t get an NFL job after exercising his constitutional right three seasons ago to protest social injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, but Kareem Hunt hasn’t a problem finding employment within a couple of months despite videos capturing his shoving and kicking a woman on the floor of a hotel hallway.
Yeah. That makes sense.
It really does.
Just not in a good way.
Courtesy of an imaginary split screen Monday of Kaepernick and Hunt, the NFL exposed itself again as a benevolent league to those it believes can advance its bottom line.
Take Eric Reid, for instance. The Pro Bowl safety joined Kaepernick during their days with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 as the original national anthem protestors. While Kaepernick remains jobless, Reid signed a three-year contract Monday with the Carolina Panthers for $22 million after struggling to find employment.
Several huge things here. First, Reid told the truth, when he informed reporters that his new deal strengthened the collusion grievance he filed against the NFL last May in conjunction with the players association. According to the grievance, league bosses and owners worked to keep Reid jobless after he was not signed by the 49ers following the 2017 season. He only joined the desperate Panthers in late September when they needed somebody as an injury replacement, but here’s the biggest thing: Although Reid continues to kneel, Panthers officials decided to concentrate more on his brilliant play in the secondary than his protesting.
Just win, baby. The NFL also channels that old Al Davis line when it comes to domestic abuse. No problem if you’re Hunt, and you’re 23, and you remain a highly productive running back on the ground and through the air. That’s opposed to Ray Rice, whose skills in an NFL backfield were declining in 2014 when a video surfaced (sound familiar?) of him punching his then-fiancé in a hotel elevator before he dragged her out to the hallway. The NFL chose not to suspend Rice indefinitely until seven months after the incident, but he was reinstated by the federal courts.
It didn’t matter, because Rice was already a physical mess along the way to an early retirement. Otherwise, he would have become Hunt before Hunt to help the NFL embarrass itself even more with blatant hypocrisy. It’s just that this league makes about $14 billion per year not to care. How else can you explain the audacity of the Cleveland Browns signing Hunt Monday to a one-year deal with the option of bringing him back the following season as a restricted free agent?
It gets crazier, but only if you have brain cells. The NFL placed Hunt on its version of double-secret probation when he joined the commissioner’s exempt list after he was released in December by the Kansas City Chiefs. He isn’t supposed to play until the NFL completes its investigation, you know, whatever that means. The same John Dorsey who picked Hunt for the Chiefs two NFL Drafts ago is now the Browns general manager, and he told reporters Monday, “I want everybody to know we have done extensive research in regards to this case, this player. He understands and takes full responsibility for the egregious act he committed. He is extremely remorseful for his actions.”
Uh-huh. Theoretically, Hunt remains on that commissioner’s exempt list until the investigation ends. Theoretically. No way, the Browns signed Hunt without league bosses whispering to them that he’ll likely become eligible to play sooner rather than later. After the New England Patriots survived the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 last week in the least-watched Super Bowl in a decade, the NFL is looking for as much star power as possible.
Two years ago, Hunt left the University of Toledo to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards as a rookie. He also ran for eight touchdowns, and he had 53 catches for 455 yards to push the Chiefs into the playoffs. During his 11 games last season before that video-induced suspension, he rushed for 824 yards and seven touchdowns, and he managed seven more on catches.
From the perspective of NFL owners, here’s what all of this means regarding Kaepernick: They don’t like that national anthem thing, but they could get over that in a hurry (see Reid). They believe the now 31-year-old quarterback who took the 49ers to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl is closer at this point of his career to Rice (can’t play anymore) than to Hunt and Reid (capable of adding more billions to the league’s billions).
This article originally appeared on Forbes