On Aug. 7, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and social justice warrior Colin Kaepernick posted a video to Twitter. The opening frame was a blacked out screen with a white scoreboard that read “Denied Work for 889 Days.” The video went on to show Kaepernick hitting the weight room for a workout.
“5 a.m. Five days a week. For three years. Still ready,” the free agent QB states in a voiceover.
The message is clear. Kaepernick still has a desire to play quarterback in the NFL.
Kaepernick’s protest against injustice and inequality created a fiery collision between the sports and political worlds. The last time he laced up his cleats under an NFL contract was Jan. 1, 2017.
After it was announced that Kaepernick and the NFL had come to a settlement in his collusion case against the league, many thought Kaepernick would ride off into the sunset, becoming a full-time social justice advocate. That does seem like the most likely scenario since NFL owners seem frightened to death at the scrutiny a Kaepernick signing would bring.
Never mind that according to USA Today, there have been at least 95 incidents of NFL players getting arrested and/or charged with crimes (ranging from driving with a suspended license to DWI to assault) since Kaepernick last played in the NFL. Many of those players were welcomed back to their teams with open arms. Meanwhile Kaepernick is out of the league for a silent, peaceful protest.
Jay-Z has been a vocal Kaepernick supporter. He wore a Kaepernick jersey while performing on Saturday Night Live. He reportedly turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl last season to show solidarity with Kaepernick. He even went as far as discouraging Travis Scott from participating in the Super Bowl halftime show.
So many eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Jay-Z’s Roc Nation signed a “multiyear partnership with the NFL to enhance the NFL's live game experiences and to amplify the league's social justice efforts.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Jay-Z that further stoked the curiosity of what this deal would mean, particularly for the plight of Kaepernick.
“The N.F.L. has a great big platform, and it has to be all-inclusive. They were willing to do some things, to make some changes, that we can do some good,” Jay-Z stated.
The Twitterverse went crazy with questions. Does billionaire “Hov” have the clout to get “Kap” back into the league? Is Jay-Z abandoning his principles and selling out for that NFL money?
It looks like we’ll all have to wait and see.
According to Carolina Panthers’ DB Eric Reid, the first player to kneel beside Kaepernick, Jay-Z is not working with the banished QB in this initiative. Reid showed his displeasure for the agreement, accusing the NFL of “acting like they care about people of color by forming numerous disingenuous partnerships to address social injustice while collectively blackballing Colin.”
It’s hard to disagree with Reid’s point. How can anyone take the NFL seriously when it comes to advocating for social justice while the league continues to actively blackball a player for doing just that?
However, I’m not sure there has ever been a more optimal time for Kaepernick to return to the NFL. Last week, the POTUS was asked if Kaepernick should be given an opportunity to return to the NFL and responded surprisingly.
"Frankly, I'd love to see Kaepernick come in — if he's good enough," the current White House occupant stated.
While I don’t generally believe anything Individual 1 says, that statement alone would seem to give cover to teams who need a quarterback but are frightened of the media spotlight that would accompany Kaepernick.
With the DNC debates ongoing, potential impeachment, an ongoing border fight and more, the POTUS should have bigger concerns than Colin Kaepernick.
This could be the season that some team finally comes calling. Many things have occurred that should give the league confidence that a Kaepernick return wouldn’t hurt its precious ratings. First, Nike’s stock rose after running a pro-Kaepernick campaign. Reid has had success with the Panthers while remaining an outspoken advocate for social justice. The NFL has also signed various social justice-related partnerships.
Most of those things occurred without a groundswell of public passion. It seems like this season is Kaepernick’s best chance to serve as a signal-caller in the NFL once again.
Even if he doesn’t, his protest has worked to a certain degree. Howso? Just watch the NFL fall all over itself to put together social justice initiatives that would have never existed had Kaepernick never decided to kneel during the national anthem.
I have little doubt that Kaepernick still possesses the skill to play. The big question is whether there is an owner in the NFL that possesses the courage to make the call. While I won’t hold my breath that one will emerge, I indeed remain hopeful.
The NFL can sign deals with Jay-Z, Van Jones or the ghost of Marcus Garvey, until one of its teams signs Colin Kaepernick, the league’s calls for justice rings hollow.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch online at stlamerican.com and on Twitter @ishcreates.