It has been nearly three years since Colin Kaepernick played in a professional football game. The story of how Kaepernick was blackballed out of the NFL is well known. The then-San Francisco 49ers QB took a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner” to raise awareness for the critical fight for social justice in America.
I’ve written several articles about the Kaepernick saga. Though I am a sports columnist, I stood in solidarity with Kaepernick by declining to watch NFL games after his unofficial ouster. I have watched a total of one NFL game since Kaepernick left the league, and that was for a story I wrote on Patrick Mahomes.
A photo of Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Eli Harold kneeling has been the cover photo on my personal Facebook page for years. In other words, I am a true supporter of Kaepernick and the causes that he champions.
Even as one of his most ardent supporters, I had come to grips with the idea that it was unlikely that No. 7 would ever play in the NFL again. In February, Kaepernick and Reid reached a settlement in their collusion grievances against the NFL. While Reid signed with the Carolina Panthers in Sept. 2018, Kaepernick has had no such luck in landing a deal.
According to a memo released by Kaepernick on Oct. 10, the QB had not received a single offer or workout by an NFL team since he last suited up for San Francisco. That goes against the rumors and theories that many Kaepernick detractors have floated. That is about to change.
Tuesday night, Kaepernick announced via Twitter that he will soon be working out for NFL teams.
“I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday,” he stated. “I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.”
The fact that the NFL reached out to Kaepernick to organize the workout is interesting. NFL executives have treated Kaepernick, who has never faced legal trouble, as a pariah, while welcoming back players convicted of crimes with open arms.
That treatment has left many to openly ponder whether the NFL is operating under sincere motives to help Kaepernick find a new job. The ironclad details of the meeting seem to imply that the league still has some animosity towards the quarterback.
According to The Ringer, Kaepernick’s team was contacted by the NFL out of the blue and given just two hours to accept the workout invitation. The workout was also scheduled on a Saturday, a day when many coaching staffs are knee deep in game prep. A request by Kaepernick’s team to schedule the workout on a Tuesday or the following Saturday was denied without explanation.
Many on social media have speculated that the invitation is a PR stunt by the league. If Kaepernick remains unsigned following the workout, league officials could claim his exile was due to deteriorating skills instead of his social stance. It reminds of me boxing. Oftentimes, one fighter will choose to avoid another for years, hoping that he/she will either lose to another opponent or their skills will diminish sufficiently during the wait.
Still, it appears that this is the first time in history that the NFL has organized a workout for a single veteran player. The league sent a memo to all 32 teams, inviting them to send representatives to the event. The NFL will also make video of the workout available for every team.
It is quite possible that a few struggling NFL teams were interested in signing Kaepernick but afraid of the flak that would follow. However, the league may see a golden opportunity to bring back boycotting fans and put an end to a tumultuous era.
After all, an impeachment hearing has the attention of the loudest Kaepernick critic. It is also pretty obvious that Reid’s addition to the Carolina Panthers has had absolutely no negative impact on the league.
Most likely, the NFL has some algorithm or formula that shows it can financially benefit from a return of the blackballed blacktivist. TV ratings, apparel and ticket sales could all increase should Kaepernick made a long-awaited return to the NFL.
Kaepernick has reportedly continued to work out five days a week in anticipation for this chance. Now he will finally get his opportunity to prove that he still has “the goods.”
No, it should have never had to come to this. Kaepernick has the sixth-best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history. He also has the 23rd best QB rating in league history, better than legends such as Troy Aikman, Dan Marino and Brett Favre. His absence from NFL rosters is a direct result of his social stand, not his play on the field.
Saturday, none of that will may matter. Long before Kaepernick emerged as a social justice warrior, he was a heck of an NFL quarterback. Now he has the opportunity to prove that he still possesses the talent that helped him lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013.
It seems appropriate that the workout will take place in Atlanta, a modern day “black mecca.” Kaepernick risked his NFL career by having the courage to take a stand for black Americans and minorities suffering gross injustices by the legal system. Now, ATL could be the location that spurs the next chapter of Kaepernick’s QB career.
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