A few months back, the Ravens were looking at signing the controversial free agent quarterback as an insurance policy on starting QB Joe Flacco. General manager Ozzie Newsome and team owner Steve Bisciotti consulted with several people, including Lewis, while trying to come to a decision.
Kaepernick is, of course, a hot topic in the NFL right now. Between the protests last season and the sudden wave of support from players all over the league recently, he will bring a certain level of controversy with him wherever he goes for the rest of his career. Lewis understood this, and he spoke openly about it; however, behind the scenes, he and the Ravens were trying to make a deal happen.
Then, Kaepernick’s girlfriend, TV and radio personality Nessa Diab, tweeted.
“Steve Bisciotti said, ‘I want to hear Colin Kaepernick speak to let me know that he wants to play football,’” said Lewis. “It never happened because that picture comes out the next day.”
Diab posted a picture of Lewis with his arms around Bisciotti comparing it to a scene from the movie “Django Unchained” where a slave has his arms around his master. The caption was a bull’s eye emoji and Ray Lewis’s Twitter handle.
Damn. Shots fired.
“His girl goes out and puts out this racist gesture and doesn’t know we’re in the back office about to try to get this guy to sign,” said Lewis. “…The only thing that went bad was that image where she tried to make us racist individuals…When they call me, it’s to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ We were gonna close the deal to sign him. All we wanted to hear was Colin Kaepernick speak.”
Here’s the problem. Like I mentioned, Kaepernick is extremely controversial. Whether you like him or not, you have to concede that. Well, NFL teams (in general) don’t like that. Teams would prefer to be known for what they accomplish on the field as opposed to what their players are doing off of it (or, in this case, on the sideline).
Kaepernick announced that he doesn’t plan on protesting the national anthem anymore if he is signed, so that isn’t the issue. However, if his girlfriend is going to go around tweeting things like that and accusing teams and their owners of being racist, the controversy isn’t going to go away. The conversation is still going to loom over Kaepernick’s head, and, as a result, over the entire franchise.
So, if it weren’t for that tweet, “Then he’s flying him to Baltimore, I’m sitting with all three of those [guys], we’re all having a conversation about bringing Colin Kaepernick in,” continued Lewis.
While it’s unclear how the tweet caused things to unravel—maybe Lewis told the team to drop it, or maybe Bisciotti caught wind of it and was personally offended—I still can’t figure out why Diab would target Lewis. The future Hall of Famer had no formal role in the Ravens decision, being involved merely as an outside advisor on the situation. It’s not like Lewis has gone on an interview tour touting how terrible Kaepernick is and saying that he doesn’t deserve to be hired.
“This is the only thing that frustrates me a little bit,” said Lewis. “I lived police injustice—I lived it. So for somebody to tell me that I’m racist? No, what I found out was, I found out that all cops are not bad cops. And I found out that all people that work for the system are not bad people. You can’t put everybody in one box. There’s not one word you can ever find where I criticized and said, ‘I don’t like Colin Kaepernick, and I think it’s terrible.’ I never said it.”
Kaepernick can’t seem to stay out of the news recently, and it’s not clear whether all that publicity will actually increase his chances of getting signed. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that he’d like to see Kaepernick get another chance, but he also acknowledged that isn’t the one who would be making that decision.
“One thing I do as a commissioner is, I don’t make those decisions. I’m not a football expert,” said Goodell, stating the obvious. “The thing we’re always about is meritocracy and opportunity. I want to see everyone get an opportunity including Colin, but those decisions are made by football people. I’m still convinced he’ll get that opportunity when the right opportunity comes along and that’s what our league is all about as you know.”
The Ravens have remained noticeably silent through all this, and coach John Harbaugh was only able to say this:
“I’m not even exactly sure what all was said. But I can tell you this: I’m way past that. I haven’t even thought about that for weeks. Our focus is — and has been — Cincinnati.”
I would be visibly shocked if Kaepernick isn’t on a team by the end of this season. In fact, at the rate players are getting injured, he may find a home by Week 2. And then we get to hear all about it for another month or 12.