At one point, the Baltimore Ravens seemed like a viable landing spot for free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Head coach John Harbaugh (whose brother Jim nearly won a Super Bowl with Kaepernick in San Francisco) wanted him, and so did general manager Ozzie Newsome. The Ravens already needed a new backup with Ryan Mallet struggling, and then Joe Flacco missed all of preseason with a back injury. (He should be ready for Week 1.)
However, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held off on signing Kaepernick, and now we have an idea why. On this week’s season premiere of Showtime’s Inside the NFL (Tuesdays, 9 p.m.), former Ravens star Ray Lewis explained that he fought for Kaepernick “like nobody has,” attempting to convince Bisciotti to sign him. But those talks died down when Kaepernick’s girlfriend, radio DJ Nessa Diab, tweeted a “racist gesture” at Lewis.
Here’s an excerpt from the episode:
Judy Battista: “I’m startled that he has not been signed. I’ve been told ever since I’ve started covering the NFL that talent wins out. We’ve seen teams take chances on a lot of unsavory characters. The fact that this is what has tipped over and they can’t come to grips with signing a guy who has kneeled for the national anthem but you’ve signed guys that have enormous legal issues—and they’ve been embraced by teams and they’ve been embraced by fans—I find that curious.”
Ray Lewis: “When me and Steve Bisciotti were talking, this is what we were talking about, Judy. We were talking about giving this kid an opportunity to get back in the National Football League. Look, this is what I wanted to share with people. I have been fighting for this kid behind the table like nobody has… I’ve never been against Colin Kaepernick. But I am against the way he’s done it.
“Then, his girl [Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend] goes out and put out this racist gesture and doesn’t know we are in the back office about to try to get this guy signed. Steve Bisciotti has said it himself, ‘How can you crucify Ray Lewis when Ray Lewis is the one calling for Colin Kaepernick?’…
“When they (Ravens) called me, it was to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ … We were going to close the deal to sign him… Steve Bisciotti said, ‘I want to hear Colin Kaeperkick speak to let me know that he wants to play football.’… And it never happens because that picture comes up the next day. “
Judy Battista: “So, if not for that… tweet, you think he would be a Baltimore Raven”
Ray Lewis: “Then he’s flying him to Baltimore. I am sitting with all three of them and we are all having a conversation about bringing Colin Kaepernick in.“
Here’s the tweet Lewis referenced, where Diab likened Lewis to Stephen, a racist slave played by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and Bisciotti to Calvin Candie, a plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
— NESSA (@nessnitty) August 3, 2017
Lewis had voiced opposition to Kaepernick’s protest. The day before Diab’s tweet, Lewis posted a video suggesting Kaepernick should tone down his social activism while he tries to land a contract.
brotherhood – we are in this together pic.twitter.com/Q3HpPA0uqr
— Ray Lewis (@raylewis) August 1, 2017
Although Kaepernick would have upgraded the quarterback situation in Baltimore and many other places, he remains a free agent even though just about everyone considers him talented enough to be a low-end starter. Meanwhile, Kaepernick has continued his activism while other players in the league, such as Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins, have assumed the mantle as leaders of the national anthem protests.