Five years after his Super Bowl loss to Joe Flacco and the Ravens, Colin Kaepernick is still better than at least a dozen QBs who already have jobs; guys so awful that nobody would’ve paid attention if they were on the sidelines smoking weed during the national anthem. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation because Kaepernick would have been signed weeks ago. Except racism.
But since we’re here — and since I was a student in Baltimore in the Ray Lewis era — here are three great, non-football reasons the Ravens should sign Kaep before the end of the day:
1. The Two Rays
Before he met with Donald Trump last year and before he made a habit of dropping biblical references in his color commentary, Ray Lewis was charged with stabbing two guys to death in Atlanta. And we all saw what Ray Rice did in that elevator — I spent my entire summer of 2014 on CNN talking about it. Lewis beat the murder rap and was deified by Ravens fans for the rest of his career. Rice never played another snap in the NFL, but some of the classier Baltimorons still rocked his jersey to games.
If that’s the reception these guys got from Baltimore, I’m not here for any complaints about Kaepernick.
2. Lake Trout
Yes, it’s stereotypical to list greasy-ass fried fish as a reason a Black man should move to a city for a job. But Lake Trout joints are all over the place in Baltimore. That greasy-ass fried fish on two slices of white bread, plus fries and a half-and-half tastes good as shit and damn near got me through college. I struggle to think of a blacker thing than Kaep — afro in full splendor — rolling up Park Heights or down Pennsylvania Avenue for a lake trout combo. And since he spent 2016 doing one Blackest Thing Ever after another, and being vilified for it, he gets to do this and y’all don’t get to say a damn thing.
3. Baltimore is Black as fuck
Polling firm J.D. Power yesterday released a survey of 9,200 obviously white people about their sports-watching habits in 2016. While ESPN (my former employer) ran with the headline that protests were the biggest reason people turned off football last year, the Washington Post debunked that thoroughly. Kaepernick’s presence in Baltimore would challenge the narrative that anthem protests are turning off football fans. This is, after all, where youth clashed with police over Freddie Gray’s death. It’s the same town that elected a prosecutor who took charged all six officers involved in the incident; the same town where jurors once acquitted a teenager accused in the death of an officer even though the kid had been literally been pulled out of the car as it was on top of the police cruiser because the jurors didn’t trust cops’ testimony.
It’s the same town where the US Department of Justice concluded that the police department “engages in a pattern or practice of: (1) making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; (2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”
Baltimore is not a town where a guy like Kaepernick will hear a lot of boos for protesting against police violence (at least not the same way he would in Kansas City or Pittsburgh) because Baltimoreans — 63 percent of whom are black — are too familiar with police misconduct. Ravens fans, at least a big chunk of them, would have no problem with Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, even if he did it while eating a greasy-ass fish sandwich.
Keith Reed is a Pittsburgh-born writer and editor who's worked for ESPN Mag and The Boston Globe