It has become clear that Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem is causing a workplace rift. Once-cohesive colleagues are lining up on opposite sides of the divide, whispering and pointing fingers across the aisle. The atmosphere is toxic.
The locker room? No. There’s no credible evidence that Kaepernick’s public display is tearing apart the 49ers’ locker room.
It’s the press box that is coming unglued.
We could have gone into this season with the “team” of NFL media united in pursuit of common goals: quick games with no overtime; colorful, made-to-order post-game quotes; reliable wifi; Marriott points; and more free cookies and coffee than Babe Ruth could have gulped down in a week.
Instead, Colin Kaepernick has driven a wedge down the middle of sports journalism. TV analysts, radio jocks, columnists and bloggers, once collegial, now trade barbs on the airwaves or glance suspiciously down the row of laptops and wonder who is in on their side, and who is the enemy.
It’s causing friction. It’s tearing at the fabric of sportswriting, a fabric that is at least 50 percent polyester and could use a quick iron.
The tension has gotten so overwhelming that writers are cozying up to anyone who shares their views on Kaepernick. “Couldn’t have said it better myself, Trent Dilfer.” “You nailed it, Skip Bayless!” These words have actually been spoken recently.
And so Kaepernick has turned into the most loathsome and repugnant entity on an NFL sideline. He has become a Distraction. A Distraction to writers.
Look, we have jobs to do. Difficult jobs that involve driving into deepest Santa Clara and divining what in the hell Anthony Davis is thinking at any given moment. We need laser focus to perform. And here Colin Kaepernick has started a flag protest that is seeping through the rest of the NFL. Now, when the national anthem plays, instead of mentally composing a hilarious tweet we’re frantically scanning the sidelines to see who is standing, who is sitting, who is kneeling and who is waving a giant American flag while passionately caressing a bald eagle.
The biggest travesty of all? Kaepernick isn’t even a starter! This guy should be sitting quietly in the shadows, not turning into a giant Distraction. Here we are, focusing our gaze on a guy holding a clipboard when we should all be paying attention to great starting quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert and Case Keenum.
There’s only one solution. The 49ers can’t cut Colin Kaepernick or bury him on the depth chart. They need to start him. It’s the only way to re-galvanize the press box. If Kaepernick is playing regularly, we can all go back to writing about something we agree on, that the guy needs some work on his check-down progressions.