The circumstances surrounding Reuben Foster and Colin Kaepernick have basically zero similarities, except that one is employed and the other is not, and the franchise that decided to immediately snap up an accused domestic abuser before the ink was dry on his booking sheet also hired Mark Sanchez — who is basically a walking punchline as a quarterback — while sneering in Kaepernick’s general direction.
Connecting these two cases isn’t a reach. The Washington Redskins decide who is on their roster and who is not. Tuesday, they decided Foster, arrested over the weekend for the second time on a domestic violence charge, was worthy of their employ. Last week — and, honestly, probably a year or more ago — they decided Kaepernick, who has knelt for the national anthem in an effort to bring attention to police brutality and other issues that disproportionately affect African Americans, was not.
Where to start?
As an organization, an NFL team has a chance to set an example of what’s good and right. That could be because you conjure up a behind-the-scenes marketing strategy to win over your fan base, or because you possess an actual moral compass. Either way, your fans and your community would understand they can trust your motives and your moves.
The Redskins don’t do that. Ever. They’re shady at best, vile at worst. Tuesday night, they issued a statement attributed to Doug Williams, the senior vice president of player personnel, outlining why they made the waiver claim that brought Foster into their fold just two days after he was cut by San Francisco because of his latest arrest. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Williams was handed a sheet of paper with “his” words written on them and then told, “We’re saying you said this,” and he either had to accept those conditions or quit.
Forget whose words they actually were for a minute. Nowhere in the statement did the franchise indicate it understands the severity of domestic violence in this country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 10 million women and men are physically abused by an intimate partner every year, and one in three women has been abused. That’s staggering. A baseline for employment might be — oh, I don’t know — not engaging in such behavior. Ever.
Unless, of course, you can run fast, I suppose.
“If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone,” Williams’s statement read.
Swell. Washington officials, in their statement attributed to Williams, went out of their way to say they had consulted with the Alabama players on their roster — Foster played for the Crimson Tide — to get a read on Foster’s character. Couldn’t they have done the same to learn about Kaepernick? The reason Washington needed a backup quarterback last week is because the starter, Alex Smith, broke his leg. Crazy coincidence, but Smith’s the guy who lost his job to Kaepernick while both were with the San Francisco 49ers. Wonder what he thinks about his old teammate.
Well, lookie here.
“Crazy to think he’s not playing,” Smith told the Kansas City Star in August 2017. “Yeah, that’s a crazy thing. As good as he was playing. Young, strong. I felt like he had a long career ahead of him. Crazy that at this point he’s out of a job.”
Fifteen months later, it’s still crazy.
True, Smith is only one voice. To find another, the Redskins would have had to . . . move down a few lockers to find Vernon Davis, who told a radio host that same month: “My tenure with Kaepernick was nothing but amazing. He was a leader while I was playing with him. He was a great guy off the field and he worked extremely hard. He’s probably the hardest-working man I’ve ever seen in my life. He does it day in and day out, and he’s always been a standup guy. And I’m sure he’s the same way.”
It’s not even worth discussing whether Sanchez is a better quarterback than Kaepernick. But because there will be nit-pickers out there who say Kaepernick can’t play, look at the numbers. Career quarterback rating: Kaepernick 88.9, Sanchez 73.9. Career touchdown to interception ratio: Kaepernick 72-30, Sanchez 86-86. Career completion percentage: Kaepernick 59.8, Sanchez 56.7. Career rushing yards: Kaepernick 2,300, Sanchez 449.
It’s not close. And yet, in the preamble to the Dallas-Washington game on Thanksgiving, NBC’s Mike Florio reported that Washington never considered Kaepernick, and that team President Bruce Allen, in particular, wanted no part of him.
Look, I understand that there are people who are offended by Kaepernick’s method of protest. I see it as free speech, a basic principle of American life. But I have heard from people who believe that kneeling on his employer’s time is an affront. Let’s do something we don’t seem to do much anymore — agree to disagree — and move the conversation further.
Employing Kaepernick would provide an opportunity for discussion. The issues he and other players around the league have pushed forward in their protests — incarceration levels of people of color foremost among them — are worthy of consideration. The club that puts Kaepernick on its roster, should that ever happen, will help push the reset button on this entire issue. What would result, one would hope, would be a calm, reasoned discussion of what Kaepernick is fighting for, and why. The club that does that would be a leader.
The Redskins lead in no way. They are callous opportunists, putting forth the worst message possible to their fans. Depending on the outcome of his criminal case and an NFL investigation into the circumstances, Reuben Foster may never suit up here. But it’s too late.
We know the stand Washington took: It has little issue harboring an accused domestic abuser even if it won’t foster a discussion on the horrors of domestic abuse, but won’t think of even calling about a thoughtful, iconic figure who some consider toxic. In a week’s time, this club used Reuben Foster, Mark Sanchez and Colin Kaepernick to reiterate who it really is, which is nothing you’d want to root for.
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.