The early days of Ravens training camp have delivered all manner of discouraging news and one large dose of controversy.
The back injury that has sidelined Joe Flacco led to the revelation that the team has been in contact with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and continues to ponder bringing him into camp.
Kaepernick, of course, deeply offended a lot of Americans when he decided to sit or kneel when the national anthem was played before games last year. He has since let it be known that he will stand for the anthem if he plays in the NFL this season.
Still, there is a delicious irony to the possibility that Kaepernick might resume his football career in the city that spawned “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But even if he doesn’t, the negative reaction to that possibility — particularly on social media — illustrates just how clueless some fans are when it comes to keeping everything in its proper perspective.
This has all come about in the three days leading up to Sunday’s first public workout at M&T Bank Stadium, the timing of which presents a perfect opportunity to prove that point.
Lest anyone forget, it was at the first M&T Bank Stadium workout three years ago that fans cheered running back Ray Rice in the aftermath of his assault on his wife, Janay, in an Atlantic City casino elevator. That was before the release of the damning video that showed just how brutal the assault actually was, but Rice already had been suspended in the NFL’s original halfhearted attempt to deal with a spate of domestic abuse accusations.
NFL fans have proven they’ll put up with a lot from their favorite players. Ray Lewis is a god in this town 17 years after he was arrested in connection to a double-homicide in Atlanta. Adam “Pacman” Jones has been arrested at least nine times during his career, but is back in camp with the Cincinnati Bengals to begin his 12th season in the league. Former Dallas Cowboys star Greg Hardy was hailed as a “real leader” by owner Jerry Jones near the end of a checkered career that included arrests for domestic violence and drug possession.
And Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem.
Let’s be clear on something. I didn’t agree with his decision to do that and I condemn his stupid decision to wear socks at a 49ers practice that portrayed police officers as pigs. But I do believe that the right to peacefully protest is one of the things that makes America truly great in spite of its many blemishes.
Both of my parents were World War II veterans, so the flag and the anthem mean a lot to me. But how many of us are really thinking about the real meaning of either one while we wait impatiently for some game to start?
I’ll say this much in defense of Kaepernick: He put a lot more thought into his pregame protests against racial inequality and oppression than some Ravens fans put into the storm of angry tweets that followed John Harbaugh’s confirmation Thursday that the team was in contact with him.
Kaepernick is not a “traitor.” Standing up for a controversial cause is not unAmerican. The founding fathers risked the noose to create a system of government that protects the right of every citizen to protest and call for change.
Should the Ravens sign him if Flacco’s back problem turns out to be more time-consuming than currently believed?
If the team determines that he’s the best possible replacement … absolutely.
Harbaugh was right on Friday to cast that potential decision predominantly in football terms.
"It has to do with our need,” Harbaugh said. “Joe's day-to-day. Do we really have to make that move or not? That's the decision that really has to be made. I think there's a lot of layers to it, just from the football standpoint. I'll focus on the football part of it. If there are other layers to it, then I think that's taken into consideration at the appropriate level."
The Ravens have been much more careful about character issues in the wake of the Rice situation and a long string of arrests over the two years following their Super Bowl XLVII win, but that’s not relevant in this case.
Kaepernick isn’t guilty of anything other than offending a lot of people and not playing particularly well the past couple of seasons.
If he can help, the majority of Ravens fans will be happy to have him and the rest can threaten all they want to give up their season tickets, but they’ll still come.
They paid a lot for those PSLs.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.