Nothing and nobody are going to stop John Elway from endorsing a Supreme Court nominee. Not his team, not his league, not Broncos fans, non-Broncos fans or the general public.
There may be consequences and repercussions from the public. But it’s been a day since Elway’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of his friend and "big Denver Broncos fan"Neil Gorsuch went public. The strongest reaction to it from anybody in any position of power has been to carefully point out that it’s really, honestly, seriously, not official team stationaryon which he wrote.
Split that hair all you want, but that’s all the splitting there is on this.
John Elway is notlosing his job. The NFL is notturning its back on him. It isnot feeding the notion that today, despite everything Elway hasever done as team president (never mind as a player), he actually stinks at what he does —always has, always will, and he might as well get used to it, because he’s finished in this game. That will teach him to keep his political opinions to himself.
Stick to sports. Keep politics and sports separate. Period. End of story.And if you have a problem with that, end of career.
Wrong. That’s not happening to John Elway.
It’s happening to another NFL employee — check that, former NFL employee — Colin Kaepernick.
MORE: Kaepernick to Seahawks?
It shouldn’t happen to Kaepernickany more than it should happen to Elway. It shouldn’t matter whetherhis bosses love his positions on society, America, the flag, the troops, the Star-Spangled Banner or … well, the Supreme Court and the people who should and shouldn’t be on it, and who should and shouldn't get to decide that.
But you already know how this story ends, and why.
Nobody who can make or break Kaepernick’s career is standing up for him. And nobody who can make or break Elway’s career is even paying attention to his letter, the beliefs behind it or his right to write it.
Are you gonna get Tony Romo or not? That’s the endorsement folks care about with Elway.
Elway, however, is a powerful figure on one of the 32 franchises that decide Kaepernick’s future.
For some reason in the world of the NFL — and the world of those who like the way Elway thinks more than the way Kaepernick thinks — that means Kaepernick deserves to be effectively banned for life.
Meanwhile, Elway deserves to have his fullFirst Amendment rights respected, just like every other American, without having his job threatened.
Calling this mindset the very definition of hypocritical is pointless. Sois claiming that if you look up "two-faced" in the dictionary, there's a picture of the NFL shield.
The light isn't going to comeon over the heads ofthe NFL team executives who already have predictedthat Kaepernick is never going to be signed, because they can’t stand him, want no part of him, don’t care if he’s better than at least half the available quarterbacks, or that they’re afraid of their fan base and of the sitting president getting frisky about it on Twitter.
(That president got frisky in a "campaign rally"speech this week, instead of on Twitter. Same difference. That president didn’t find Elway or his letter to be worth mentioning, for what that’s worth.)
To repeat: Free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Kaepernick has been taught that. But Elway has not. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who last week didn’t hesitate to hitch a ride on Air Force One, has not.
On the other hand, Kraft’s quarterback, Tom Brady, has labored mightily to avoid the potential pitfalls of a political endorsement. Brady already has learned the hard way that royalty as a player still makes hima pawn compared to his bosses.
Speaking your mind — to power, against power, in favor of power — isn’t supposed to put your livelihood in jeopardy. That's one of the concepts embedded in the flag and anthem that everybody is fighting to make Kaepernick stand up for, or else.
Nobody should pay a price for that, not a team executive, not a backup quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick is paying one.
John Elway is not.