(Photo by Slate.com)
Once coach Chip Kelly named Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, all speculated reasons of his absence finally came to an end. From his supposedly emaciated weight to his salary guarantee upon a permanent injury to a reported restructured contract, no one cares as long as Blaine Gabbert is no longer on the field.
The 49ers deserve credit for capitulating to public pressure as Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke remain divided over the controversial quarterback. It is well-known in league circles that the underachieving general manager has grown tired of Kaepernick’s presence while Kelly has always wanted to use him as the main feature in his run-heavy offense.
Except, the Niners made things difficult by retaining him despite his National Anthem protest and him being dressed as a benched player. Publicly, dressing Kaepernick fueled critics’ anger toward him but increased fans and media demand for him to play. Financially, they may have brought on extra danger as playing him would increase the risk of him getting a permanent injury salary settlement.
Regardless, even though his deactivation would have put him in street clothes and decreased financial risk like the Washington Redskins’ of Robert Griffin III, the Niners developed a secret trick for their own personal gains as Kaepernick’s actions proved that “any press is good press.”
After he announced his motives of protesting the National Anthem in August, NFLShop.com revealed that Kaepernick’s jersey sold the most among NFL players. Over a month later, despite wearing shoes to offend police officers, receiving death threats, accusing two presidential candidates of racism after their debate, and playing only three regular-season offensive snaps, his jersey ranks second in sales, just behind Odell Beckham Jr.’s.
However, with eight of the ten highest grossing jerseys featuring players that played at least fifteen games, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson being the only top-50 selling player (no. 27) not to play a game, and a deactivated Robert Griffin III finishing outside the top-50 in 2015, the 49ers may have found a creative marketing strategy. By having a benched Kaepernick suit up, they used a “sport it, sell it” model to make his jersey more relevant for sales as his deactivation would have defeated the purpose of soliciting his jersey.
Think about it. Can you really sell a jersey better when a player does not wear it?
Besides, with what is likely the NFC’s most poorly constructed and least marketable roster, and their marketing department being well aware of the aforementioned uniform trend, do you actually think that the 49ers would take a moral or meritocratic stance when they needed and could make money off Kaepernick’s jerseys?
They only had one of the biggest rosters turnovers since the 2001 Baltimore Ravens tore apart their Super Bowl-winning roster from 2000. Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Anthony Davis (the first time), and Justin Smith retired, and it is possible that Kelly is a tremendous waste of money as he is echelons far below Jim Harbaugh in the NFL and NCAA ranks.
To make amends for the turnover, possible due payments to two head coaches (Kelly and Jim Tomsula), and revenue as losers fail to generate any; there was no better way than to use Kaepernick as merchandise bait.
Like Kaepernick, you all have First Amendment rights by opting to agree or disagree with what I have to say. Regardless, when he looked healthy enough to not to be underweight, suited up when his deactivation decreased financial risk, and, lastly but notably, was highly unlikely not worse than Gabbert as a passer or runner, there is no sense in falling for what has been reported or sold to you. Remember, teams like to be secretive in everything they do, and when most revelations come through anonymous sources or after time passes, there is more sense behind this likely marketing conspiracy as teams want one thing besides winning: money and lots of it.
Now, with the team headed to Western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills, do not be surprised if Kaepernick’s jerseys sell better than they currently are as the aforementioned stats and history show that playing more can boost sales. From April to July 2011, Tim Tebow’s jerseys were the eighth-highest sold while he sat through a lockout and on the bench at Denver Broncos training camp. With the Broncos finishing 7-4 with him at season’s end, Tebow’s jersey finished second in sales, even though he was the league’s worst starting quarterback.
Remember that not all teams feel that they have a chance to win while all want profits when their fiscal years come to an end. NFL teams may put up headaches as long as they win. Except, when the NFLPA continues to shrivel under the failing and unqualified DeMaurice Smith and extra revenue streams are in sight; they will put up with even more as money can cure all ills, including losing.