Two events today could lead to conspiracy theories

Today, two football activities will take place. One likely will be viewed by thousands; the other by very few. Both will be talked about for days and both have a lot of “why” questions associated with it.

In Atlanta today, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have a workout for interested teams. In Piscataway, New Jersey, the Ohio State Buckeyes will take on Rutgers without the services, once again, of defensive end Chase Young.

Let’s look at each event and then why I believe conspiracy theories are likely to come bounding forth.

Colin Kaepernick. We all know the story of Kaepernick, the former star quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He decided a few years ago to protest police brutality and racial injustice in this country by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. His actions brought about a lot of condemnation and to be honest, little support.

Ultimately, the protests caused Kaepernick to lose his job. Since being released and not signed by any other team, Kaepernick has sued the league for collusion. He was joined in the protest and the lawsuit by former 49er teammate Eric Reid. They settled the suit for an undisclosed amount of money.

Reid is playing for the Carolina Panthers, while Kaepernick has not sparked any interest from another team. He has appealed to the NFL for a chance to showcase his abilities and the NFL has agreed to allow his workout today for any interested teams to attend.

Thus far 11 teams have committed to sending representatives to the workout and subsequent interview. Kaepernick’s representatives asked for the workout to be held on Tuesday — generally an off day for most teams — so coaches and GM’s could attend. The NFL basically told him that it was Saturday or not at all and he will take his chances to impress possible suitors today.

Former Browns coach Hue Jackson will lead the workout. All indications suggest Kaepernick is in great physical condition. He also has not played since 2016 and is 32 years old. Neither of those factors will work in his favor, but the most important part of this day may be the interview. You have to assume that one question will be prominent, and that would be whether he intends to continue his protest.

If Kaepernick says yes to that question, my guess is the workout is meaningless. Most teams would not risk upsetting their fan base to take a chance on a player who may or may not be able to help the team.

Chase Young. The Buckeyes suspended Young last week after it came to light that he may have violated NCAA rules last year by accepting a loan from a family friend. I have read that the money was used to fly his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl. I also read where it may have been used for living expenses.

Whatever the purpose, his acceptance of the loan was a clear violation of NCAA rules (we can argue the validity of the rule another time) and Ohio State found out this week that if he sits at Rutgers today that would be the extent (two game suspension) of his punishment.

Conspiracy theories. There will be many questions surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s workout. Why, for example, is it being held today rather than on a Tuesday when more important team coaches and executives could attend? Why is a workout being “staged” by the NFL instead of teams working out the quarterback privately which is normally the case?

The conspiracy theorists likely will suggest this whole activity is a sham. Maybe the NFL is worried about further lawsuits. Is Colin Kaepernick better than most NFL backup QB’s? I think so. Is he better than some of the starters calling signals in the league? Entirely possible. Is he being ignored by teams because of his playing ability or his protest actions? I think I know that answer to that question.

Some are going to suggest that this is just a publicity stunt by the NFL to prove that there is no collusion. In my mind, there is no collusion unless the NFL brass told teams not to sign him. Did that happen? I would hope not.

I can see why teams were not willing to alienate their fan base by signing Kaepernick.

The Astros did exactly that by employing closer Roberto Osuna after a lengthy suspension for domestic abuse. That story is still playing out.

Whether there is something amiss with today’s workout, I’ll let the conspiracy theorists give their take on matters. What I know is this. First, Colin Kaepernick had a Constitutional right to stage his protest. Secondly, even having the right to do something does not mean that there won’t be consequences for doing so.

As for Chase Young, the violation occurred months ago and though the money was repaid quickly, some people will wonder about the timing of the discovery. Do you think conspiracy theorists will suggest that it was not by accident that the two games missed by Young were Maryland and Rutgers, but he will return for Penn State and Michigan?

Why was this violation not discovered sooner? I don’t know. Did Chase Young know he had committed a violation? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that these two events today will make for great water cooler conversation come Monday morning. Stay tuned as there will be a lot of stories written about Kaepernick and Young as time moves forward.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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