Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is a factor in whether to sign him, Ravens’ owner admits

From left to right: San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick  and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. Kaepernick completed the season with the San Francisco 49ers, then opted out of his contract in March and since then he has seen a number of teams in need of a quarterback kick the tires on other players.
From left to right: San Francisco 49ers’ Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. Kaepernick completed the season with the San Francisco 49ers, then opted out of his contract in March and since then he has seen a number of teams in need of a quarterback kick the tires on other players.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)  

The Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback situation may be dire as training camp opens, but, like so many other NFL teams, the Ravens are not turning to Colin Kaepernick.

At least owner Steve Bisciotti was open about the reasons. Possibly wrong, but open.

Bisciotti and Ravens President Dick Cass explained why the Ravens bolstered their quarterback roster with an indoor league player rather than a Super Bowl quarterback while Joe Flacco is out nursing a sore back. Their reasons include Kaepernick’s national anthem protest of police brutality. Their methods involve sounding out Ray Lewis and asking for prayers.

“We’ve very sensitive to it and we’re monitoring it, and we’re still, as (General Manager) Ozzie (Newsome) said, ‘scrimmaging it,’” Bisciotti said at a fan forum on Sunday. “So pray for us.”

Kaepernick became a national lightning rod when his protest began a year ago. He completed the season with the San Francisco 49ers, then opted out of his contract in March and since then he has seen a number of teams in need of a quarterback kick the tires on other players. As the controversy blossomed into a question of whether NFL owners were blackballing him, John Mara of the New York Giants admitted that fans had threatened in letters to never come “to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, more so than any other issue I’ve run into.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was in attendance, denied Kaepernick was being blackballed. “He can’t be because we’re not,” Goodell said. “The clubs are making those individual evaluations.”

The NFL Network reports the Ravens, like the Giants, “have heard from numerous fans regarding Kaepernick in the last couple of days, many staunchly opposed to his signing.” Still, the Ravens are a team that has known controversy, with Lewis and Ray Rice on the roster, so a fan asked Bisciotti if perhaps there is concern about the team’s brand.

“Quantify ‘hurting the brand,’” Bisciotti said. “I know that we’re going to upset some people, and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did. Nonviolent protesting is something that we have all embraced. I don’t like the way he did it. Personally, I kind of liked it a lot when he went from sitting to kneeling (as his protest). I don’t know, I’m Catholic, we spend a lot of time kneeling.”

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Last week, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said he had spoken with Kaepernick a number of times over the summer. Their roots go deep; Kaepernick was the San Francisco 49ers quarterback under Harbaugh’s brother when the 49ers faced the Ravens. Like his brother, John Harbaugh has spoken up in defence of Kaepernick’s football skills. He did so again last week, even as the team chose to bring in David Olson, with Ryan Mallett taking first-team reps.

“You have to check all those boxes off before you can pull the trigger and do something,” Harbaugh said Friday. “We’re in the process of doing that. There’s a reason Colin hasn’t signed yet, all those things, all the considerations and factors. There’s also a football fit kind of a thing too. We like Ryan Mallett as a quarterback and he fits into the offence. You just have to figure all that stuff out and see what’s best for your team. I guess the question was, when you start with ‘How good of a football player is this?’ Absolutely, good enough football player to be here. That’s where you start, for sure.”

Cass confirmed that the team has been in touch with Kaepernick and has reached out to sponsors and fans alike to gauge the possible impact. That includes talking to Lewis, who was on the team when he was accused of murder, and Rice, who also was on the roster during a domestic-violence incident involving his now-wife.

“Talk to your neighbours and your friends and your co-workers, because I think you’ll get the same sense that I got, which is every time I hear something negative, I hear something positive and sometimes it shocks me who it’s coming from,” Bisciotti said. “I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what’s best for the fans. Your opinions matter to us, and we couldn’t get a consensus on it in (this room) either.”

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