The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee is tasked each year with selecting a Hall of Fame class. But how do all of those names first appear on their radar?
It’s a starting point not many have probably considered. Except for Vermont retiree Bob Birkett, who has officially nominated Colin Kaepernick for induction based on his efforts to raise awareness of police brutality.
How is Kaepernick a nominee for the Hall of Fame?
It’s the very first line under the “How Are New Enshrines Selected?” section of the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Any individual can make a nomination with a letter.
Any fan may nominate any player, coach or contributor who has been connected with pro football simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered.
The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, does not make nominations, but any person on the 48-member elite Selection Committee may nominate someone.
There’s then a selection process that starts with a vote to get the list down to around 100 Modern-Era nominees. It then drops to 25 and again to 15, 10 and five. With five nominees, the committee votes yes or no for each. An 80 percent “yes” threshold is needed to vote someone into the Hall.
Why a fan nominated Kaepernick for the Hall
Birkett shared his reasoning and part of the letter with Nancy Armour of USA Today Sports.
“It is my pleasure, privilege, and responsibility as a supporter of racial equality to nominate Mr. Colin Kaepernick,” Birkett wrote. “Mr Kaepernick has shown exceptional courage in highlighting the damaging effects of racial injustice on Black people and on our society as a whole. His respectful kneeling posture has created a powerful symbol for those who are oppressed by our society.”
Birkett is nominating Kaepernick as a contributor for bringing awareness to the issue of police brutality of Black and Brown individuals when he took a knee during the national anthem in 2016. The category is for someone who made “outstanding career contributions to pro football in capacities other than playing or coaching.”
Birkett told USA Today Sports he was frustrated asking what he could do and since he can’t force a team to sign the player, he opted to write the letter.
“He’s gotten a raw deal for so long,” Birkett told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s a little bit like (Muhammad Ali refusing to serve in Vietnam). The initial reaction was, ‘Holy cow what a horrible thing.’ Then a little while later, it’s like, 'Man, that guy had some guts.’ ”
The 32-year-old former San Francisco 49ers quarterback hasn’t found a job since opting for free agency after that year, and accused teams of colluding to keep him out of the league. He filed and later settled a grievance. The silent protests drew the ire of the president, but also began a road for NFL players to speak more publicly about injustice now.
Kaepernick could be considered for Hall in 2022
Unlike a player or coach, there is no mandatory retirement period for a contributor before he can be considered. The Class of 2021 selection process began earlier this year, so Kaepernick could be considered as soon as 2022. The initial list by the selection committee is done in March.
Kaepernick was briefly listed as “retired” by the NFL on its website earlier this offseason, but it was correctly changed back to unrestricted free agent.
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