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Working with Colin Kaepernick must be fun. Every single day you are in contact with a world class athlete who also takes personal stands on issues even if it is to the detriment of his own career.
In my mind, there is no doubt Kaepernick is the good guy but for anyone with a hazy memory of the NFL player, he rose to international prominence in 2016 after taking a stand against racial injustice, namely police brutality and killings against young black people. He initially protested by sitting down whilst the national anthem was being played prior to games. After discussions with a group of people opposed to his methods, suggesting it was disrespectful to people who had given their lives for that very anthem, he chose to kneel instead. Kaepernick had said that it was not his intention to disrespect veterans merely to highlight a very real and current issue. The controversy continued. Donald Trump said that Kaepernick was unpatriotic and it was suggested that the NFL owners should get together to have him removed from the league. Kaepernick’s sponsor, Nike, weighed in themselves having put him front and centre of a new ad campaign along with the slogan saying “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything”.
Nike’s decision to do this sparked outrage from a bunch of middle-aged white guys who then decided to record themselves setting fire to trainers they had already purchased. Whilst outside of the US, support for the quarterback was pretty big. The 49ers did not renew his contract at the end of the season and he was a free agent since 2016. Although he reiterated his desire to play again, he has been, in effect, removed from the league by NFL owners.
The ‘issue’ Kaepernick’s team were focusing on this time was in the form of getting around the NFL’s organisation of a private workout. On the face of it, you could be led to believe that it was a genuine effort to reintegrate an athlete back into a sport that had shunned him. In truth, it was nothing more than a PR stunt – a chess move in a battle that NFL owners are currently losing. Either Kaepernick performed but the world wouldn’t see it and team representatives could come out and say how he wasn’t ready or suitable anymore. Or, alternatively, Kaepernick declined and the NFL could try to portray that they gave him every chance. It was staged for last Saturday, with no media present, both things Kaepernick’s team objected to. Saturdays are notorious in American Football for being busy days. Coaches and scouts are already watching or travelling over the weekend and wouldn’t have time to come and, as mentioned, no media would mean no evidence.
Prior to the event, I read an excellent article on possible outcomes by Etan Thomas, a former professional in the NBA. He detailed a number of different ways the day could play out. He, like the rest of us, didn’t see what Kaepernick had in store. Kaepernick at the last minute changed the location to one of his own, 45 minutes away from the original, invited all the media and scouts to come and performed the workout as was going to be set out for him by the NFL. The feeling was pretty unanimous from onlookers; Kaepernick was still good enough to be competing in the NFL.
In my opinion, it’s going to take one incredible return from the NFL, the team owners and everyone else associated to get out of this one. Kaepernick may not go down as the best player the NFL has ever seen but he will be up there with the most remembered and I cannot wait to see what happens next.