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Colin Kaepernick needs to speak up on anthem controversy

Colin Kaepernick is the one important voice that remains silent and it’s time he speaks up.

He started the National Anthem protests more than one year ago and all that has come out of his camp is his recent filing of a grievance charging the NFL with collusion for blocking him from signing with a team.

Eleven NFL owners and Roger Goodell met for over four hours with 13 players and NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith on Tuesday morning at the league office at Park Avenue and then the owners conducted their regularly scheduled fall meeting in the afternoon at a Battery Park City hotel.

The summary of what came out of the two meetings: The NFL will not force players to stand for the National Anthem, although that is clearly their preference, as previously stated by Goodell. They owners did not ask the players for a commitment to stand.

The subject of the anthem was actually secondary in the morning talks — the league and the players will continue to have discussions about implementing programs for social change. The owners are not expected to take a vote of strengthening the language in it policy that players “should” stand for the National Anthem to they “must” stand.

The unspoken gentleman’s agreement is it appears there ultimately will be a tradeoff: The players will stand for the anthem in exchange for the league and the owners taking an active role with the players in jointly using their platform to promote equality and positive social change. Part of the agreement could be something along the lines of a social awareness week or month and public service announcements.

“Roger’s report to full ownership was very positive and very optimistic,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said. “There are a lot of proposals and ideas that were discussed, all of them addressing the issue quickly, which it needs to be addressed sooner than later.”

But where was Kaepernick in all this talk Tuesday?

He began his protest in the 2016 preseason by sitting during the anthem and then kneeling as a means to bring attention to racial injustice, racial inequality and police brutality. He became a free agent in March and the Seahawks were the only team to bring him in for a visit. They signed journeyman Austin Davis instead.

Colin Kaepernick (c.) started the national anthem protest movement.

Colin Kaepernick (c.) started the national anthem protest movement.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Malcolm Jenkins, who has become a spokesman for the players on these social issues, was asked after the meeting with Goodell and the owners why Kaepernick, who has been living in New York, was not invited.

“He was invited, actually,” he said. “He was invited.”

Why didn’t he attend?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that question.”

There was one report that Kaepernick didn’t want to be a distraction. Perhaps he was also uncomfortable interacting with owners after accusing them of collusion. But it’s important that he step up now and support the players who have taken up the cause for him. It’s unlikely after he filed the collusion case that any team will touch him now, but it doesn’t mean he can’t be an impact player.

The NFL said that the players’ leadership council decided which players to invite and the league did not have veto power. Kelvin Beachum and Demario Davis of the Jets and Mark Herzlich of the Giants attended. Eight teams were represented. John Mara was part of the owners’ contingent.

Mark Geragos, who is representing Kaepernick in the collusion case, released a statement on Twitter. “Colin Kaepernick was not invited to attend today’s meeting by any official from the NFL or any team executives. Other players wanted him present and have asked him to attend the next meeting with the goal of forging a lasting and faithful consensus around these issues. Mr. Kaepernick is open to future participation on these important discussion.”

Even if the NFL didn’t extend Kaepernick an invitation, Jenkins and Geragos made it clear the players wanted him there Tuesday. He should have attended.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (c.) has become the spokesman for the players on social issues.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (c.) has become the spokesman for the players on social issues.

(Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Kaepernick’s legacy from his NFL days, even if he does get another opportunity to play, will be more about the movement he began with his anthem protests than anything he does on the field even with a Super Bowl start on his record.

Goodell called the meeting with the players “very productive and very important. It reflected our commitment to work together with our players on issues of social justice. Our players are men of great character, they have a very deep understanding and tremendous knowledge of the issues going on in all our communities and their commitment to addressing these issues is really admirable and something that I think our owners looked at and said, “We want to help support you. Those are issues that affect us, they are our issues also, we’d like to do it together.”

Jenkins, who has been raising his fist during the anthem each game while teammate Chris Long, who is white, places his hand on his shoulder, said, “Everything we talked about has everything to do with the state of the NFL now – obviously anthem protests, the activism and work that players have been doing and how we can move this forward to really amplify these issues and make some long, sustainable changes.”

Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was confronted by two protesters for his national anthem stance Tuesday while on his way into the afternoon meetings. He was not part of the morning session.

Jones said nine days ago that any Dallas player who does not stand for the anthem will not play He had previously locked arms and taken a knee with his team, before the anthem was played, after President Trump called any protesting players a “son of a b—–.”

Carl Dix, an African-American man, and Linda Solotaire, a white woman, were in the Conrad New York lobby when they spotted Jones with his son Stephen and daughter Charlotte, both Cowboys executives. Dix and Solotaire represent a group called RefuseFascism.org.

“We have seen where your program of muzzling black football players has come down to,” Dix said he told Jones. “The players are right to take a knee during the national anthem to highlight racial injustice to black people.”

That brief encounter didn’t bother Jones. I wanted to hear what they had to say,” he said.

Now it would be nice to hear what Kaepernick has to say.

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