The N.F.L. and Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who ignited a protest motion towards racism and police brutality by kneeling on the sideline throughout the taking part in of the nationwide anthem at video games, have settled a case that accused the league of colluding to maintain him off a group.
The league additionally settled the same declare lodged by one other participant, Eric Reid, who knelt alongside Kaepernick and went unsigned for a interval earlier than taking part in final season for the Carolina Panthers. The assertion by the N.F.L. stated that “the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances” and that “there will be no further comment” as a result of the gamers and the league reached a confidentiality settlement.
The phrases of the settlements weren’t disclosed. Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, issued the same assertion.
Geragos didn’t return calls for extra remark.
Kaepernick has not performed in the N.F.L. since the 2016 season. He filed his grievance beneath the league’s collective bargaining settlement in October 2017, and his lawyers have been busy gathering evidence and testimony from numerous N.F.L. owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, who spoke publicly about Kaepernick’s protests and their negative impact on the league. McNair died in November.
A number of players across the league joined him in kneeling during the anthem, generating a debate over race and player activism, drawing angry tweets from President Trump and flummoxing the league over how to respond. Last year the N.F.L. instituted a policy under which players could remain in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem, but if they were on the field, they would have to stand.
But that policy was suspended after the N.F.L. Players Association filed a grievance, and it was never enforced.
The sideline protest movement, however, seemed to lose momentum, and few players knelt during this past season. Kaepernick has said little, reserving most of his comments to his social media accounts. During the Super Bowl, he posted on his Instagram account pictures of athletes and celebrities wearing jerseys supporting his cause.
Legal experts have said collusion is notoriously difficult to prove, which makes it highly unusual for the league to settle these kinds of cases. It is possible Kaepernick’s lawyers had gathered enough persuasive evidence and testimony from owners, league officials and football experts that Kaepernick stood a reasonable chance of persuading the arbitrator hearing the case to rule in his favor.
Had Kaepernick won his case in a full hearing, he would have been eligible to receive the money he might have earned if he were signed as a free agent. The damages would be doubled. Given Kaepernick’s stature in the league as a starting quarterback who had led his team to the Super Bowl, in 2013, a new multiyear contract could have been worth tens of millions of dollars.
Carl Tobias, who teaches at the University of Richmond School of Law, said that parties settle for all sorts of reasons, even when they believe they may prevail in court. But the N.F.L., he said, most likely wanted to move on from the issue.
“I think the N.F.L. just wanted to get this behind them and not have this threat hanging over them,” Tobias said. “I think they’d pay whatever they’d get away with to stop the hemorrhaging and the negative light on the league.”
According to the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union, the burden is on the player to prove that owners actively conspired against him.
“That is often difficult to do because parties typically don’t leave a written record of their illegal maneuvering,” said William Gould, who was chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and oversaw the Major League Baseball strike in 1994.
Kaepernick, however, received a favorable ruling in August when the arbitrator overseeing the case, Stephen B. Burbank, dismissed the league’s attempt to have the case thrown out and said that the case could proceed, allowing lawyers for Kaepernick to question owners and league officials in a format similar to a trial.
Burbank was expected to rule on the case this spring, and as of last week, lawyers for Kaepernick were still preparing for final hearings in front of Burbank, according to a person with knowledge of the preparations.
Even though Kaepernick has not played in more than two years, his name had continued to surface every time an N.F.L. team signed a new quarterback. Many of them had less experience or statistically did not seem to measure up to him.
Kaepernick’s N.F.L. case at times also exposed a bit of a rift between Kaepernick and the N.F.L.P.A. Kaepernick hired his own lawyers for the case instead of going through the union, and the union’s statement on the resolution said it was informed of the settlement by the N.F.L. and was unaware of the terms.