May 30, 2020 | 6:53pm | Updated May 30, 2020 | 9:23pm
Joe Lockhart saw up close what happened to Colin Kaepernick, how owners refused to sign the talented quarterback because it could hurt business. He was the league’s vice president of communications when Kaepernick was taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality against minorities.
And, now, as racial tensions are as high as ever with the death of George Floyd — in the middle of the novel coronavirus pandemic no less — Lockhart, the former press secretary under President Bill Clinton, believes the NFL can step in fix a past error and make a difference. Bring back Kaepernick, three years after he parted ways with the 49ers. What better team than the Vikings, who play in a city where violent protests have broken out over Floyd’s death.
Lockhart’s plea comes on the heels of players in the past making accusations that Kaepernick was blackballed. So have unnamed sources. But now someone who was on the inside of the NFL is speaking up.
“No teams wanted to sign a player — even one as talented as Kaepernick — whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business,” Lockhart wrote. “It may have seemed like a good business decision for the clubs to not sign him, and it certainly wasn’t illegal, but it was wrong. … I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were.”
Lockhart said the NFL and the Vikings have a chance to rectify that error.
“The situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice,” Lockhart wrote. “As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings. Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.
“It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence. But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made.”
But now, the Vikings can make a stand. And Lockhart said he thinks it can help the healing process.
“I hope they will do it. It’s the right thing to do. And it’s something the city — and all of America — needs right now,” he wrote.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the tensions surrounding Floyd’s death, saying in a statement on Saturday that “the NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across out country” and sent the league’s condolences to the Floyd’s family.
“There remains an urgent need for action,” Goodell said. “We recognize the power of our platform in the communities and as part of the fabric of American society.”