There really isn’t a whole lot one can say about Colin Kaepernick or his plight that hasn’t already been said.
Regardless of what you think of the man, his motives, or his current state of perpetual football limbo, if you follow sports you’ve probably heard all there is to know about him. If you don’t, you’ve probably heard enough fragments of the story to develop what you believe is a concrete opinion on him. Attempting any semblance of a Kaepernick literature review in the introduction of this piece would be an exercise in futility due to sheer volume. But, without getting too granular, the following general assumptions can be made:
You probably know he sat or knelt during the National Anthem last football season. You hopefully, but might not necessarily know that this silent protest was in defiance of the racial discrimination held within this country (particular in cases of police brutality), and not out of disrespect to those who’ve proudly served in this nation’s armed forces. You also probably know Kaepernick — a former NFC Championship, and very nearly Super Bowl winning quarterback — is currently unemployed, to the delight of many. You might know he didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election, and that he was unapologetic about it.
On the flip side, you might not know that depending on the metrics you choose to use, statistically Kaep’s performance last season ranges somewhere between halfway decent and utterly terrible. You might not know the entire San Fransisco 49ers organization crumbled around him over the last four years, making any sort of team success a long shot wrapped in a pipe dream. And you probably don’t know that since taking his initial stand (by sitting), Colin Kaepernick has been the Oprah Winfrey of professional athletes; his philanthropic work is second to none.
The Kaepernick situation has been dissected from all angles a thousand times over. Many people, particularly Black people, seem to be miffed at Kaep’s joblessness, considering several equal or lesser quarterbacks have already received contracts offers this offseason. The belief here, obviously, is that Kaepernick is being blackballed by the league. Many other people, particularly white people, are quick to retort by pointing out A) Kaep’s steady decline in performance, B) the fact that he chose to opt out the last year of his contract with the Niners (who could blame him?), C) that he appears to be in search of a starting QB gig (unlike many of the others who have already received deals) and D) the biggest quarterback dominoes have yet to fall this offseason, which will go a long way in determining Kaep’s destination.
The truth is, ALL of the above are accurate. Each of those explanations for Kaep’s lack of a new deal from a new team are valid, as is the belief that some (if not many) teams just don’t want to deal with the controversy brought on by his politics.
Should anything that Kaepernick has stood for actually be controversial though? Of course not.
But honing in on this, or the other inconsistencies regarding his treatment, which we should all agree there’s at least some, is missing the point on why so many people view his actions as heroic in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick was well aware of the consequences of his actions back when this all started late last summer. If he had any historical compass at all, he would’ve observed the treatment of (among a host of others) Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Arthur Ashe, Jim Brown, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Curt Flood, Craig Hodges and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and easily anticipated the vitriol he’s currently experiencing (and that’s just in sports!). In short, America doesn’t much care for the outspoken Black athlete—it’s an edict as old as the games themselves.
The idea that NFL franchises would view him “distraction”, making them hesitant to sign him, was terribly predictable. So why are we acting surprised that Kaep has not yet inked a new deal? Liberal media and liberal social media are screaming “injustice” when they might as well be screaming into the wind. Kaepernick was calculated in his decision to sit eight months ago, and therefore willing to sacrifice negotiating leverage eight months later.
It’s why we saw his jersey sales sore. It’s why his teammates recognized him as “inspirational and courageous“. It’s why he made Power 100 lists and influenced athletes of other ages, genders, sexual orientations, sports, and levels of competition to join him in solidarity. For in him, we saw a man willing to risk his name, his personal safety, his mentions, and yes, his occupation and livelihood to heighten awareness of atrocities that still aren’t being taken seriously enough. There’s a reason why we celebrate his bravery.
So if you read Johnny Manziel may get a deal before Colin Kaepernick—who cares? It was to be expected. Or when you hear Joe Thomas say, “NFL teams accept ZERO distractions from their backup QBs”, ignore it. He’s right, for one, and whether or not you believe Kaep is being unfairly saddled with the word “distraction” is irrelevant. Kaepernick must possess the self-awareness to know this was the only way he’d be perceived; a man this woke wouldn’t all of a sudden slip into a sunken place of naiveté when reconciling his own fate.
Don’t bother getting worked up about Colin Kaepernick. He wouldn’t be the man so many of us have come to respect if he weren’t prepared to handle the inequities he saw coming from two generations away.