- The Washington Times
Sunday, May 31, 2020

Joe Lockhart, a former NFL and Clinton White House spokesman, had a suggestion for addressing the violent rioting taking over the streets of Minneapolis: The Minnesota Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick.

Mr. Lockhart said in a CNN op-ed that the “situation in Minnesota right now offers a unique opportunity to deal with the symbols of racial injustice.”

“As a small, but important step, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, can send a strong message by offering Colin Kaepernick a contract to play with the Vikings,” said Mr. Lockhart in a Saturday op-ed. “Bring him into camp, treat him like any of the other players given a chance to play the game they love.”

Minnesota National Guard and police grappled Saturday with a fifth night of rioting, looting and fire-starting spurred by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died on Memorial Day after a white officer kneeled for nearly nine minutes on his neck.

“It will not solve the problem of blacks and police violence,” said Mr. Lockhart. “But it will recognize the problem that Kaepernick powerfully raised, and perhaps show that, with courage, real progress can be made.”

Mr. Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton and later worked for Democrat John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, also said it was “wrong” for NFL owners not to sign the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback after he became a free agent in 2017.

The Vikings‘ current signal-caller is Kirk Cousins, who signed an $84 million contract with the team in 2018.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy reiterated that any NFL team is free to sign Mr. Kaepernick, who became a controversial figure during the 2016-17 regular season by taking a knee during the national anthem instead of standing.

Colin is a free agent,” Mr. McCarthy told ProFootballTalk. “Clubs may sign him if they choose to do so.”

Mr. Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights foundation announced last week that it had formed a legal-defense fund to represent protesters arrested in Minneapolis.

NFL ratings dipped as more players refused to stand for the anthem in the 2017-18 season, culminating in a September 2017 rally at which President Trump said owners should fire players who protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Mr. Lockhart said that owners believed signing the quarterback would be “bad for business,” with one team executive telling him that the club would lose 20% of their season ticker holders if they signed Mr. Kaepernick.

The NFL has since pledged to invest nearly $100 million over seven years in social-justice causes, with an emphasis on police relations and criminal-justice reform.

“Recent events across the country make it even clearer how much more work needs to be done,” said NFL vice president of social responsibility Anna Isaacson in a statement. “We recently announced we surpassed $44 million in funding along with a new set of national grants and grant renewals to non-profit organizations that really do the real work on the ground in our key focus areas of education, economic advancements, community and police relations and criminal justice reform.”

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