Attorneys for Colin Kaepernick are seeking depositions from John Schnatter, the former CEO of Papa John’s, and the wife of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to reports Tuesday. Kaepernick’s legal team has been attempting to produce evidence of collusion by the NFL to keep him out of the league, as part of a grievance the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback filed in October.
It remains unclear who will be compelled to be deposed, as the grievance process unfolds in accordance with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. A University of Pennsylvania Law School professor, Stephen Burbank, has been appointed as an independent arbitrator, and he will need to be convinced by Kaepernick’s team that multiple parties within the league conspired to deny the politically active quarterback employment.
Schnatter founded Papa John’s, a national pizza chain that has a prominent corporate partnership with the NFL, but he was forced out of his role as CEO in December, after he blamed disappointing sales on NFL players’ protests during the national anthem and on poor leadership in the league’s headquarters. Schnatter did not specify Goodell as a target for his criticism, but reports at the time suggested that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had his own issues with the commissioner and who owned a number of Papa John’s outlets, was suspected of instigating Schnatter’s comments.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Tuesday that “Kaepernick’s legal team aims to interview Schnatter about any role” Jones may have played in his remarks. The team, according to La Canfora, is also interested in connections between NFL owners and President Donald Trump, who has frequently slammed the protesting players and Kaepernick in particular.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports cited sources in reporting that Jane Skinner Goodell “was added to a list of deposition requests this week,” following the collection of tens of thousands of documents, emails and phone records by Kaepernick’s team from NFL officials. In October, Goodell admitted to using a Twitter account under a pseudonym to fire back at journalists who posted less-than-positive tweets about her husband.
The request to depose Goodell’s wife, who seems unlikely to provide a smoking gun in the collusion case, may represent an effort on the part of Kaepernick’s team to pressure the commissioner into helping come to a resolution with the quarterback. Some observers believe that Kaepernick, who missed the 2017 season, would drop the grievance if he is signed by an NFL team.
According to Robinson, depositions also have been requested from Jones and two other NFL owners, the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the Houston Texans’ Bob McNair, as well as two head coaches, the Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh and the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll, and two general managers, the Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome and the Seahawks’ John Schneider. In addition, a pair of NFL officials, executive vice president of operations Troy Vincent and senior vice president of player engagement Arthur McAfee, are being sought for testimony.
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