SPANO: Why can John Elway take a stance and Colin Kaepernick can’t? It’s simple


Rage is all the rage.

We are living in an era where everybody is involved in a movement, and every voice has a platform. There's a lot of positives with this, but like all things, there are negatives as well.

All too often we are ready to form an opinion without any rational thought or perspective behind it. We have, as a society, started fighting everything that we deem as unfair, even though most of us were raised by the motto "Life ain't fair."

The most popular temper tantrum that is being thrown right now is by people who think it's just not fair that Colin Kaepernick hasn't been signed yet. The 29-year-old quarterback made national headlines last year when he kneeled during the national anthem. A lot of people supported his actions, and a lot of people did not, which made him polarizing.

For those that have a problem grasping this, polarization creates interest and interest leads to media attention, and all of the sudden the 49ers backup quarterback has to do weekly press conferences even though he doesn't play.

Whether you like it or not, that's called a "distraction."

Being polarizing in the NFL is okay if you are really good. Actually, being anything in the NFL is okay as long as you are really good. This goes back to the value equation that is relative to any product or employee in any company in the world. It looks like this: Reward-Cost=Value. If Salesman Z makes BSN Denver $320,000 per year in ad sales (Reward) and he or she is paid a salary of $60,000 per year (Cost), then our value on his or her employment is $260,000, giving us a 4.3x return on our investment.

In the NFL, it's a little different because the reward is based on success and ability. As much as the NFL would like to show the world that it is lead by a moral compass, the recent past paints a much different picture. It is lead by the value equation and nothing more.

For example, Greg Hardy missed 15 games in 2014 for allegedly beating up his girlfriend and slamming her onto a pile of weapons. He entered free agency in 2015, as a guy who registered 15 sacks during his most recent full season, in the prime of his career, with something to prove. The Dallas Cowboys knew that his signing would garner attention and would be a distraction but made the decision that it was a tremendous value proposition. They signed him to a one-year, $13 Million deal with incentives.

Ray Rice on the other hand? Not so much.

Mr. Rice punched his wife in an elevator and unfortunately for him, was coming off of a 660-yard season, his worst since his rookie year. At 27-years-old, with slowing production, playing a position that is often labeled as "replaceable," the value equation came out as a big negative.

He never played again.

In the last two seasons, Colin Kaepernick has won only three of the 19 games he started. He's thrown for less than 4,000 yards in that time frame with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's good enough to be a backup quarterback somewhere, but most teams are going to be reluctant in bringing in a polarizing backup who lives under a microscope.

Translation? His value equation is in the toilet.

At its absolute core, the NFL doesn't care about race, religion, politics, or sexuality. Yes, those are all surface topics, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to value. The distraction of Colin Kaepernick hurts your team more than he helps at this point. 

The most recent outcry related to Colin Kaepernick is actually surrounding Broncos GM, John Elway.
The Broncos executive and football legend sent a letter of recommendation on behalf of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, using letterhead with the Broncos team logo above it.

The question I keep seeing is, "Why does John Elway get to use his platform to promote a political stance but Colin Kaepernick does not?" People are really digging for conspiracy here.

My immediate response is that if I have to explain this, then we are in much more danger as a society than I previously thought.

And here I am explaining it.

For most of the world, income and job retention are based on performance. Because of John Elway's unbelievable, franchise-saving success, he can support whoever the hell he wants, using any platform that he wants. Just like how Russell Wilson could kneel at every national anthem for the rest of his life, endorse any candidate that he wants, and it wouldn't matter to the guys who employ him.

Do I agree with this? My answer is simple; it doesn't matter. The market is the market is the market. You want to create a movement using another organization's platform? You better be one bad-ass employee.

In real-life, production matters and value matters. In the NFL, it's all that matters.

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