Give Jeffrey Lurie credit. He never backed down.
Not when asked whether he would sign Colin Kaepernick to his Eagles; not when asked whether players should protest; not when asked whether Kaepernick had been blacklisted; and not when asked whether it was appropriate that Kaepernick sat, then knelt, during the national anthem last season in his crusade to end the epidemic of excessive force used by police when dealing with African-Americans.
Last week, Lurie made plain his feelings for Kaepernick’s actions and words. So far, no owner has addressed Kaepernick more thoroughly. Lurie spoke for himself only, but he offered a glimpse at why other owners would hire Blaine Gabbert, Josh McCown or Mike Glennon instead of Kaepernick.
Lurie just doesn’t like Kaepernick’s act.
Lurie frowns on anthem protests, but he can stomach them as long as they are part of a larger, pointed strategy to effect change. He isn’t a fan of alienating police and the military, or their supporters, but he’ll risk alienation as long as the offending protests have a specific point, and if the protester is willing to work to fix the problem.
To be clear, it wasn’t the Kaepernick situation that prompted Lurie to call an impromptu State of the Eagles address Thursday; there were other issues. Besides, the Eagles have Nick Foles, the prototype backup quarterback: modestly talented, minimally accomplished.
But make no mistake: Lurie knew Kaep would come up. He did. Four times. And like Andy Reid coming off a bye week, Lurie was ready.
On the record. For attribution.
He wasn’t particularly eloquent, and he wasn’t perfect; he used inappropriate comparisons and one egregious dog whistle. But, to be fair, it was an anxious moment and a sensitive topic.
Given a couple of days to reflect, Lurie stood by his original statements.
“You know me,” Lurie said Sunday, after the Eagles beat Washington. “I’m always thoughtful about these sorts of matters.”
Of course he is.
Lurie earned a Ph.D. in social policy at Brandeis, whose curriculum examines social and racial inequality. Dr. Lurie (Dr. Lurie?!) is infinitely more qualified to address this complex and divisive issue than his peers, such as the newsprint manufacturer who owns the Patriots. Robert Kraft has only an MBA from Columbia (and, of course, five Super Bowl rings).
Kraft also is one of seven NFL owners who have donated at least $1 million to President Trump, Kaepernick’s Critic-in-Chief. Lurie didn’t give The Donald a dime, but that doesn’t mean he disagrees with Trump’s distaste for the Colin Kaepernick experience:
Sitting out the anthem; wearing socks with cartoons of pigs in police uniforms; wearing a shirt that featured Fidel Castro; equating Hillary Clinton with Trump, and not bothering to vote in November.
It’s the anthem thing that Lurie can’t get past.
“I don’t think anybody who is protesting the national anthem … is very respectful,” Lurie said. “If that’s all their platform is, is to protest the national anthem, then what’s the proactive nature of it?”
In Lurie’s mind, kneeling for the anthem just ticks people off if there’s no follow-up. In 2011, the Eagles were named the most socially proactive sports team in the world. Lurie loves follow-up.
With Lurie’s understanding, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has raised a fist during the anthem since Game 2 last season … because, with Lurie’s support, Jenkins has become the torchbearer among NFL players seeking social reform.
Kaepernick has been little more than a symbol. Yes, he put his money where his mouth is and has donated $900,000 of a pledged $1 million to various social causes. But he hasn’t been heard from or seen much. He sponsored and attended three Know Your Rights Camps aimed at inspiring youth to seek education and to manage interactions with police. He has refused to conduct interviews since January.
By comparison, since January, Jenkins has spoken with a U.S. senator, delivered an address at an Ivy League law school, visited inmates at a state prison, helped the ACLU in a voter drive, and spoken in front of a congressional committee in Washington. He’ll talk about any, and all, of it at any time with anybody.
Wearing pig socks and not apologizing for it? That’s just being provocative.
“Anybody who wants to do proactive things, to try to reverse social injustice, I’m all in favor of. It has to be respectful,” Lurie said. “It certainly has to respect the military and the people that serve, the women and men that serve our country, emergency responders, whoever that is.”
That doesn’t mean the Eagles would never consider signing Kaepernick; it’s just that Kaepernick would have to persuade them that he has evolved since last season. That’s understandable … but this is where Lurie put his foot in his mouth.
He compared Kaepernick’s situation to that of a felon whose sadistic cruelty to animals sickened a nation:
“With Michael Vick, there was a complete vetting of: ‘How is he as a teammate? What is his character? What is his potential? What is his football intelligence? Can he be a backup?’ ”
By all accounts, Kaepernick last year was a model “teammate” whose professionalism as a “backup” was beyond reproach. Once Kaepernick was forced into service, his 16 touchdown passes versus four interceptions clearly showed he has the “potential” to again become a Super Bowl quarterback.
No one questioned the (wince) “football intelligence” of Glennon, McCown or even Gabbert – the zombie who was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick last season! Of course, Glennon, McCown and Gabbert are white. They also have a combined 20.5 winning percentage (15-58) since 2012, when Kaepernick became a starter. He’s at 48.3 percent (28-30).
He must have twice as much “football intelligence” as those three combined.
Consider it a moment of poor judgment by Lurie. He has earned a pass for using the “football intelligence” dog whistle. Few owners have been as color-blind as he. Ray Rhodes and Emmitt Thomas, the first head coach and defensive coordinator he hired, were black. Personnel executives John Wooten and Dick Daniels helped rebuild the franchise. Randall Cunningham, Rodney Peete, Donovan McNabb and Vick played quarterback for Lurie. Oddly, Jason Peters calls Lurie his “best friend.”
Lurie isn’t a racist. Lurie isn’t a fascist. He even thinks Kaep’s cause is righteous. He just cannot stomach the method.
“I applaud anybody that can find respectful ways of trying to use their platform in some way to discuss social injustice,” he said.
Jeffrey Lurie does not applaud Colin Kaepernick.
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