Colin Kaepernick’s attorney: NFL rejected meeting with Kaepernick, Goodell, mediator
The ongoing saga between free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the NFL took another turn on Tuesday. Kaepernick, who protested racial injustice last year by sitting through the national anthem, has yet to be signed by a team this season and filed a collusion grievance against the NFL owners last month.
According to the NFL, the league offered Kaepernick a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell, but Kaepernick hasn’t taken them up on their offer. According to Kaepernick’s lawyer, it’s actually the NFL that rejected the meeting once Kaepernick and his team requested that a mediator also be present.
Let’s start with the NFL’s version. Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that the NFL invited Kaepernick to meet one-on-one with Goodell. From ESPN’s story:
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, texted Kaepernick on Oct. 31 to update him on the ongoing talks about social issues between players and owners, league spokesman Joe Lockhart told Trotter on Tuesday.
At the end of the text message, Vincent extended the invitation for Kaepernick to meet with Goodell, according to Lockhart, who said the league has not heard back from the former San Francisco 49ers star.
Later on Tuesday, Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, fired back, as Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported. According to Geragos, they responded to the NFL’s invitation, but when they requested that a mediator attend the meeting, the NFL rejected their proposal.
“We responded immediately [to the Oct. 31 invite] that Colin would be happy to attend,” Geragos said, per Yahoo Sports. “Because of the grievance we asked that a mediator be present. A mediator would ensure that the discussions were productive and confidential and not used as a public relations stunt or prop by the league. Colin’s proposal was rejected.”
Back to the NFL: The league called Geragos’ story “disingenuous.”
“Troy reached out to Colin directly — not to his lawyer – and said, ‘If you want to come in, come in,'” Lockhart said, per Yahoo Sports. “This isn’t about his lawyer. This isn’t about a mediator. The question of, ‘Has [Colin] been invited in?’, the answer is yes. This isn’t part of any grievance process. This is part of the overall discussion we’ve been having on some of these social issues.”
Lockhart seemed opposed to the idea of a mediator being present.
“If he wants to come in and have a discussion with the commissioner, he’s welcome to come in,” Lockhart said. “We don’t need a third party. The commissioner has met with and talked to a bunch of players and they don’t have mediators.”
Basically, the issue appears to be over the presence of a mediator. The NFL doesn’t want one there, but Kaepernick’s camp does. As Kaepernick’s attorney noted, “a mediator would ensure that the discussions were productive and confidential and not used as a public relations stunt or prop by the league.” It’s also worth noting that Yahoo Sports reported that Kaepernick is still open to meeting with Goodell if the topic of the meeting is social issues and not the grievance.
Kaepernick, 30, began his protest against racial injustice last season by not standing up during the national anthem. He also pledged to donate $1 million to charities that support communities in need. Several players joined his movement last season and even with Kaepernick unsigned this season, his protest continued through other players around the league.
The protest shifted in late September after Donald Trump criticized NFL players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem and called for NFL owners to fire those players. In response, nearly every team demonstrated in some form. Eventually, as the demonstrations continued, some players, owners, and league executives met in mid-October to discuss social issues. Kaepernick said he was not invited to that meeting, which didn’t sit well with the players.
There was some real anger and dismay among players that Colin Kaepernick was not formally asked to be at meetings today, I’m told…
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 17, 2017
The fact Kaepernick wasn’t invited here came up in the meetings, with players believing his central role in movement basically demands it
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 17, 2017
As CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported, the protesting players recently requested formal mediation with the NFL and insisted Kaepernick also be included. From La Canfora’s story:
The request specifies mediation, which the players would like to begin the week of Nov. 13 if the NFL agrees to this process. This mediation would replace the series of regular meetings Goodell and some owners have been having with socially-active players. The request was sent to Troy Vincent, the league’s head of football operations who has been a point person with several individual players who have been protesting and engaging with owners. In lieu of that communication, the players believe a more formal process, involving a qualified third party, would best achieve their goals and move this process forward.
In addition, these players have formally stipulated that Kaepernick be a party to the mediation. These players have been soliciting Kaepernick’s thoughts on their movement — on field and off — and they also want to show solidarity with the quarterback in his ongoing collusion grievance against the NFL. Kaepernick would attend the mediation if scheduled, according to the source. The NFL declined to comment on any potential mediation on Sunday through a league spokesperson.
Meanwhile, with the Texans signing Josh Johnson on Tuesday, the list of quarterbacks not named Colin Kaepernick who have been offered and signed contracts this season has grown.
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