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Colin Kaepernick's Long Legal Battle With The NFL Is Over


Colin Kaepernick's long legal battle with the NFL is over. He and his former San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid have signed confidential agreements settling claims that team owners conspired to blacklist them for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

Reid now plays for the Carolina Panthers, but no one has signed Kaepernick since his final 2016 season. Jemele Hill writes for The Atlantic, and we reached her via Skype. She is doubtful that Kaepernick will ever play for the NFL again. But she says, in one respect, he did win.

JEMELE HILL: The NFL, their playbook is really trying to pummel their opponents in court. And they've done that very successfully. They did it to Tom Brady, who eventually had to drop his fighting, as the NFL and Deflategate happened, and serve his four-game suspension. And Tom Brady is arguably the face of the NFL. And they had no problem going after him.

It's very rare that a player has the league in the position that Colin Kaepernick kind of had them in, where in the fact that, you know, they didn't want, I think, certain information to come out and be on the public record. You know, there have been plenty of reports and, certainly, it leads me to believe it was true, that there were emails, and text messages and other communication that probably would have been embarrassing to the NFL about this entire issue.

GREENE: So what do you think the NFL was trying to hide that had them under so much pressure to keep things under wraps?

HILL: They probably were worried about being tagged as racist. And already, in just the little bit of reporting that's been done about what's happened in some closed-door meetings and depositions - if you recall the late Bob McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans, when that comment that he said, calling the players inmates.

Once that became public, he had to apologize. And I would just imagine that there were probably more conversations that people would look at as being racist in nature, in terms of how they were discussing this protest and maybe other of the black athletes who were protesting in the same vein that Colin Kaepernick was.

GREENE: So no matter what side of this debate someone is on, couldn't you argue that Kaepernick lost a lot? I mean, this is a young, talented, aspiring quarterback who already played in a Super Bowl, almost won a Super Bowl. And now there's a chance that he may never play football again. Isn't that losing a lot, personally, for him?

HILL: It is definitely losing a lot. I mean, a lot of people will look at the last contract that he had in the NFL, which was a very handsome contract. They'll theorize about what his settlement is financially with the NFL in this lawsuit. And they'll say from a financial standpoint, or even if you include his Nike deal, they'll say from a financial standpoint that he won, and that should make everything better.

But I've always said, you know - and this is sort of the disheartening thing about this whole thing, is that Colin Kaepernick has spent pretty much his whole life trying to become a professional NFL player. He obviously loves football. And to have his career taken away from him is something that's never going to be right. The NFL can never amend that, no matter how much money they give him, especially for the reason that they did, which is important.

I mean, this is a league that has welcomed, you know, players who have hit women, players who've been accused of sexually assaulting people. Players who've been accused of a number of different crimes, they have been welcomed back into the NFL. And the one person that is blackballed, that is kept out of that NFL dream, is somebody who merely wanted to bring attention to the racial injustice that we see every day. And forever in history, the NFL will have to answer to that.

GREENE: Jemele Hill is a staff writer for The Atlantic. Jemele, thanks a lot.

HILL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.