• Brian L. Barefield

Watch The Invisible Hand

By now I am pretty sure you are tired of hearing about the Colin Kaepernick tryout fiasco. We have heard every sports media pundit either defend or criticize the debacle that took place on this past Saturday. It has truly come down to either you are “For” or “Against” Kaepernick and that should not be the case. What we should be focusing on is how the NFL tried to use a tactic from the Boston Red Sox back in 1945, one year before the color barrier was broken in Major League Baseball.

Let’s recap here for just a second and go through a small timeline of what lead to all of this. After three years of being away from the league and winning a collusion lawsuit against the NFL. Kaepernick and his team received a call on November 12, 2019 informing them that the league would like to offer him a special tryout on November 16th at the Atlanta Falcons training facility. The NFL said that 25 teams would be in attendance for the tryout ready to evaluate if he could still play the quarterback position after such a long layoff.

Kaepernick and his team felt that the NFL gave them way to short of notice to be prepared for the tryout and asked for it to be rescheduled. The league said no and that the deal had a two-hour, “Take it or leave it,” window. They accepted the offer even though everything from who was running the tryout, what receivers would he be throwing too, who was doing the filming, etc. was still in limbo. All things seemed very shady, but Kaepernick’s team agreed that this would be a chance for him to show owners that he has stayed in shape the last three years and was ready to help a team anyway he could. That included playing a backup role if necessary.

What caused the entire deal to go haywire was language put in a second non-injury waiver form that would forfeit the rights to take action against anything occurring at the workout. In laymen’s terms, it meant that Colin would forfeit his right to sue the NFL again for collusion if he was denied a job for anything outside of football reasons. That meant that if a team asked him if he was still going to kneel during the anthem and he said, “Yes,” they could deny him employment and there would be nothing he could legally do about it. The true meaning of the tryout had been revealed and that’s when Kaepernick and his team went to work.

They called the league to inform them on the day of the tryout that they would be switching the venue and holding their own workout fifty plus miles away from the original location. Kaepernick would not sign the second waiver and threw various routes on a high school field to receivers he flew in along with his own camera crew so that he could have raw footage to send to all 32 teams, which he did this past week.

Why? Why do this now when most NFL fans have moved past the anthem protest? What purpose does it serve to bring Kaepernick back into the spotlight? Ratings are up. Revenue is up. What more could there be except the league wanting to bring those fans they have lost due to the support of Kaepernick back into the fold. Was it still a stain on the offices in New York that Colin didn’t have a job in the NFL, even though his skill set gives most people belief that he should be employed?

Being able to see through the charade and hoax it looks like the NFL was trying to send him through reminded me of an organization that tried to do the same “Dog and Pony” show to another African American Pioneer, Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson

As I mentioned earlier, Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1946 by being the first African American player to play in the Majors when he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But just a year prior, him and two other Negro League players were taken through a similar optical trick that the NFL tried to do to Kaepernick.

Boston Massachusetts has a long history of racism associated with its city. Especially the sports franchises that resides in and around it. Many African American athletes have complained about how racist the fans can be towards players on the home and visiting teams. Hall of Fame center, Bill Russell from the Boston Celtics has spoken on numerous occasions about the amount of hatred and vitriol spewed towards him. And he won championships for them.

But if we want to track down the roots of where it started in the Boston Red Sox organization. Look no further than Tom Yawkey who owned the team for 44 years. He refused to put a black player on his team for 13 years after integration until he was forced to do so by a discrimination lawsuit brought on by the NAACP. But, he could have been the first owner to do it back in 1945 yet he turned the workout into a sham to appease a Boston City Councilman who threatened to revoke some of his privileges afforded to him by the City Council if he didn’t give a Negro League player a tryout.

Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams were brought into the stadium to tryout, where they were met with racial epithets and insults by none other than the management team from the Red Sox.


The entire workout was a preplanned, orchestrated show to make the councilman happy. Yawkey knew that he had no intentions on letting a Negro player make the roster of his beloved Red Sox team, but by doing it they could no longer say he didn’t give them an “Opportunity.”

Sound familiar? Hasn’t opportunity been the buzz word thrown around by all these African American sports personalities? “Colin was given an opportunity and he squandered it away,” is the phrase being used towards anyone that defends Kaepernick’s actions for moving the tryout on Saturday.

Robinson knew that he was walking into a tryout that was fixed from the start. Heck he had participated in a similar one in 1942 with the Chicago White Sox. What he couldn’t do was change the narrative to be seen by other teams because at that time African Americans didn’t have the rights or resources to pull that off. Colin did. He had the resources to change the narrative to his benefit and not that of the NFL and now he is being criticized for doing it.

Knowing then what you know now. Would you still tell Robinson, Jethroe, and Willams to go to the Red Sox tryout knowing the outcome? If those men decided not to go because they knew the owner wasn’t a fan of Negro players and was forced to put one on his team. Would they be, “Ungrateful for the opportunity?”

Think about that the next time you speak on Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to participate in the NFL’s version of a “Tryout."

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