There’s been a major change in the way the NFL presents itself this season. The league has embraced players’ adoption of social justice causes like never before, allowing them unprecedented freedom to express themselves. What hasn’t changed? The progenitor of this wave of peaceful protest, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is still without an NFL job. Is the NFL trying to have it both ways when it comes to the embattled quarterback?
The original Colin Kaepernick controversy
Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm in 2016 when he decided to take a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality against people of color. What followed was a national debate on racial politics, First Amendment rights in the workplace, and the role and actions of the police in our society at large, particularly as it relates to Black people.
Opting out of his contract with the 49ers as a way to potentially sign a higher deal in 2017, Kaepernick saw no takers. There were rumblings of collusion by NFL owners, unhappy at Kaepernick’s open display of protest. The issue of whether players kneeled – or were allowed to kneel by their teams – became a major point of contention for nearly every NFL team.
What Colin Kaepernick has been up to since he last played an NFL game
While Colin Kaepernick has been out of NFL action, that doesn’t mean he’s been completely inactive. Kaepernick has continued to use his voice as a public figure to shed light. He also netted a deal for a limited series on Netflix produced by award-winning director Ava DuVernay. According to Niners Nation, the project is called Colin in Black and White. It will follow Kaepernick on his journey being adopted by a white family, his rise to NFL stardom, and the sacrifice he made to protest racial and social injustice.
Kaepernick hasn’t shied away from his original stance, and that could be a reason why the NFL still hasn’t welcomed him back. Even though the NFL has made a point to discuss social issues over the past year or so, a quarterbacking job in the league still eludes Kaepernick.
How the NFL is trying to have it both ways
In a Forbes piece on Colin Kaepernick’s complicated and fractured relationship with the NFL, it states that the NFL is trying to have it “both ways” with the former quarterback. One on hand, the NFL continues to seemingly embrace the social justice and activism that Kaepernick supports. On the other hand, he still doesn’t have a job.
It’s hard to say how effective Kaepernick would be if he came back. While he seems to have stayed in great shape, he’s also been away from the game for several years. But based on the available evidence, it’s impossible to deny that Kaepernick belongs in the NFL on talent alone. Kaepernick wasn’t able to play at the same level he did the year he led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, but he played better than many other quarterbacks in the league.
Kaepernick not getting an opportunity to at least be a backup has to raise questions. If the NFL truly supports Kaepernick and his causes, why hasn’t at least one team offered him a contract? Kaepernick had a collusion case against the NFL which they’ve since settled. Countless quarterbacks have gone down due to injury since then.
The NFL may talk a big game about wanting to make an impact in their communities and society as a whole. But as long as Kaepernick remains unemployed, it will create the perception that such talk is merely lip service.