Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, U.S. Open NPR's Scott Simon talk with Howard Bryant of ESPN about Colin Kaepernick's Nike deal, the start of the NFL season and the conclusion of the U.S. Open.
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Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, U.S. Open

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Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, U.S. Open

Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, U.S. Open

Saturday Sports: Colin Kaepernick, U.S. Open

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/645818884/645818885" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon talk with Howard Bryant of ESPN about Colin Kaepernick's Nike deal, the start of the NFL season and the conclusion of the U.S. Open.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Sports - talk about non-mindfulness (ph). The NFL season begins - guess who's front and center - and Serena Williams in yet another U.S. Open final. Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. I didn't know you were a mindfulness kind of guy.

SIMON: I'm just - for the length of a short radio piece, I try. I try it, of course, everything I can. NFL hasn't resolved the issue of Colin Kaepernick, the one he started, but Nike unveiled a new ad campaign where he's front and center, saying "Believe In Something, Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything." What does this say about pro football as we begin the 2018 season?

BRYANT: Well, it says what we've known it to say about pro football, which is the game is not first. The game is still not going to come first in terms of when we're talking about protest and patriotism and concussions and everything else. That the game is - it is a - it's a game of conflict. And I think that the commercial itself - it created some real hope for a lot of people. I mean, I'm a little bit more concerned about what it said. I think that in some ways the - you can make the argument that Nike capitalism has purchased activism the same way NFL capitalism has purchased patriotism. But for a lot of people who were personally offended by how this man was treated - they felt his job was taken from him - having Nike rehabilitate him and having him be front and center on these ads, even though the ads were more inspirational and not protest based, was a real victory for a lot of people. And you could see in terms of the response having Colin Kaepernick involved again, even though he's not playing football, really meant a lot to a lot of people.

SIMON: I've got to say, he - I understand he wants to play, but he got paid $39 million on his last contract. He's featured in an ad campaign. He is 30 years old. And he doesn't have a concussion. I'd say that's a great deal to - and the rest of his life to look forward to.

BRYANT: Well, there's a victory there as well when you see a lot of players these days beginning to back away from the game because they amassed a certain amount of money and they still have their health and they're concerned about the long-term effects of playing professional football. At the same time, it is something that was a choice that was taken from him and not his choice to make. On the other hand, I also do feel when we're looking at this story and where Colin Kaepernick is, I am cautious to believe that there is - I'd like to believe that there is still an activism component here because I don't want - I don't want it to feel as if his reason for protesting has suddenly been defanged by the corporation.

SIMON: Another week, another Serena Williams final...

(LAUGHTER)

BRYANT: Of course.

SIMON: ...In the U.S. Open. Her 24th final, I gather. Serena Williams is the best ever period. Does this 20-year-old challenger, Naomi Osaka, the Japanese-Haitian player, have a chance?

BRYANT: Absolutely, she's got a chance. One, she's there. Two, she hits the ball extremely hard. She's got nothing to lose. No one's expecting her to win. She was unbelievably endearing when Tom Rinaldi asked her after the post-match in the semifinal, do you have any words for Serena? And so you were thinking that she was going to say, I'm going to give it my best shot and I'm so - and she said, I love you, Serena, with a question mark. And so it's fantastic, and I think that when you watch this final, you have two - you have two real competing stories; one, obviously, Serena trying to become the fourth mother to win a grand slam in the Open era and, two, obviously, she's trying to win this 24th grand slam, which would tie her with Margaret Court for the most ever. And so I think that when you look at this on Serena's side - and she also didn't win in Wimbledon when she lost to Angelique Kerber. This is - she wants this badly. But on the other hand, what a great story for 20-year-old Naomi Osaka to come out there and win a championship. It would be fantastic.

SIMON: Yeah. A quick couple of baseball questions. Can the the Phils catch the Braves in the NL East?

BRYANT: I think everybody can catch everybody in the National League East just because they haven't been there before. Let's find out who's built for the final three weeks of the season. Once again, as we know, Scott, my favorite time of the year.

SIMON: Yeah. And I know the Brew Crew or the Cards can catch the Cubs, but will they? Yes or no?

BRYANT: I'm going Cubs.

SIMON: OK. Howard Bryant of...

BRYANT: Stick with that $200 million, Scott.

SIMON: OK. Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you.

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