Tuesday brought news that the NFL had offered Colin Kaepernick a chance to meet one-on-one with Commissioner Roger Goodell, but a league spokesman claimed that the free agent quarterback had yet to respond to the overture made on Oct. 31. A lawyer for Kaepernick disputed that assertion, saying that he had been quick to let the league know that his client wanted to meet with Goodell, but with a mediator also present.
The lawyer, Mark Geragos, told Yahoo Sports that he had informed the league on Nov. 1 that Kaepernick “would be happy to attend” a meeting with Goodell, but that the presence of a mediator would be required because of the grievance that the quarterback has filed. The 30-year-old Kaepernick, who has been a free agent since March, is accusing NFL owners of colluding to keep him out of the league, following his protests during the national anthem last season while a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
“A mediator would ensure that the discussions were productive and confidential and not used as a public relations stunt or prop by the league,” Geragos told Yahoo’s Charles Robinson. “Colin’s proposal was rejected.”
Earlier on Tuesday, ESPN’s Jim Trotter reported that NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told him of an Oct. 31 text message sent by Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, to Kaepernick. Vincent was updating the quarterback on talks between the league and a group of players about social issues, and he went on to extend the invitation to meet with Goodell.
Lockhart told Trotter that Kaepernick had yet to respond to the invitation, and he subsequently told Robinson that Geragos was “disingenuous” in denying that claim. According to the spokesman, the NFL wants to hear directly from the quarterback, as opposed to his lawyer, and it does not feel that a mediator is necessary for the proposed Goodell meeting.
“Troy reached out to Colin directly — not to his lawyer — and said, ‘If you want to come in, come in,’ ” Lockhart said. “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.”
“If he wants to come in and have a discussion with the commissioner, he’s welcome to come in,” Lockhart added. “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.”
Tuesday’s back-and-forth was the latest disagreement over a possible Kaepernick meeting with Goodell and/or other league officials. Shortly before Vincent was said to have texted Kaepernick, Geragos claimed that the quarterback’s camp was told by the NFL Players Association and a group known as the Players Coalition that “Colin had no role” in talks between players and the league.
That assertion stood in contrast to a news release in which the Players Coalition, which includes the likes of Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and free agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin, said Kaepernick had been invited to a meeting. Also invited, according to the group, were Goodell and Texans owner Bob McNair, whose “inmates running the prison” remark angered his and other players, but the meeting was canceled.
In an October email to Jenkins, another attorney representing Kaepernick wrote, “It remains inconceivable that actual progress can or will be made at these player meetings if discussions regarding certain ideas and platforms which Mr. Kaepernick has led and created are discussed and negotiated without Mr. Kaepernick being present.” He added that the quarterback “is open to participating in, and discussing the ideas he has led, at the next meeting in a meaningful way.”
A source described by Robinson was “familiar with the talks” told him that players are leery of efforts by the NFL to hold one-on-one meetings, as opposed to with groups of players. “It’s classic divide and conquer,” the source said. “The strength is meeting together collectively and Roger and Troy are trying to split that up into individual meetings.”
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