SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Time for sports.
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SIMON: An NFL controversy sharpened this week. Attorneys for Colin Kaepernick want the cellphone records and emails of several NFL team owners in his collusion lawsuit against the league. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN the Magazine.
Howard, thanks for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And help us read the tea leaves on this one, if you could. Team owners don't like to have their phone records subpoenaed, I'll guess.
BRYANT: (Laughter) No, they don't. And this is a collusion lawsuit where Colin Kaepernick hasn't had a job this season. He hasn't had a tryout, a physical, nothing. No one has tried to hire him. And he believes that this is a byproduct of him taking a knee last year and being a protester to police misconduct throughout the country - and that the league is paying him back for it.
So what he's done is he filed a collusion lawsuit where you have to prove that at least two or more owners acted in concert to keep you from being employed. And so the way to do that is to create a paper trail. And that paper trail is being compiled right now through requests for cellphone records from NFL owners such as Bob Kraft of the Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Bob McNair of the Houston Texans. And what they're trying to create is proof that this league conspired together to keep Colin Kaepernick from having a job.
SIMON: I mean, there have been several prominently injured quarterbacks in recent weeks. And you keep wondering why no one calls Colin Kaepernick.
BRYANT: Yeah - and replaced with players who are nowhere near as good as he. And so there's - anecdotally, absolutely. You can look at this and you can say - yes, they do not want him in their league. However, the problem is is that anecdotally is not enough in terms of legal standard. You have to create that paper trail and find that smoking gun and all of these different other cliches that we use for compiling information.
And there's been plenty of conversation about this as well in terms of the comments that a lot of the owners have made. And the White House has had a lot to do with this, where Donald Trump came out and talked about how he shouldn't have a job and how you had the owner of the Giants come out earlier this year and talk about how his fan base didn't want Colin Kaepernick and how the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Steve Bisciotti, said something very similar.
And so there is plenty of information out there that would lead you toward this, which is why Colin Kaepernick made this action. However, once again, the burden of proof is very, very high - as you remember as a baseball fan in the 1980s when the baseball owners all agreed not to sign free agents. So they were essentially conspiring not to win games because they wanted to keep salaries down. And they got caught, and it's been a rift between the owners and the players for the last 30 years. We'll see what happens with this as well.
SIMON: Yeah. Very quickly, Papa John's Pizza says that people aren't buying as many pizzas because they don't like football as much as they used to. Doesn't occur to them that the pizzas might have something to do with it. Does it?
BRYANT: No. Or the - Pizza Hut actually trolled them as well to say - hey, nothing wrong with our sales over here.
BRYANT: It's a lose-lose for everybody, Scott, when you think about it from an NFL standpoint - that you have people saying, well, we're not watching the NFL because of the protests. And then you have people saying, no, we're not watching the NFL precisely because of how you treated Colin Kaepernick. So the NFL would be wise to sit down with its players...
BRYANT: ...The way the NBA has. And the NBA has not been hit with this as hard as the NFL has. However, the culture of the NFL - owners versus players - is to really stick it to the players. And so far, there's been no real conversation about putting this thing down and coming together.
SIMON: I think we have to end with a salute to the Houston Astros - won the World Series this week. I don't forget an inexcusable racial slur of one of their great players. But boy, they were a great team.
BRYANT: And I think the two best teams played in the World Series this year. And I think we got a classic. It was fantastic. I think that if you're the Dodgers, you're proud of what you did. But you also know you probably should have won that series in five games. You had the lead in Game 2. You had the lead with your best player on the mound in Game 5. And it just didn't happen for them. But credit to the Astros for fighting and fighting and fighting. And this is why you don't quit.
I think one of the great things about this, too, is that the baseball was so good, it would just be nice to see baseball go to a couple of day games in the World Series.
BRYANT: The next generation of fans didn't get a chance to see this. A lot of the action took place at 1 o'clock in the morning.
SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.