Turlock native and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been no stranger to headlines over the course of the past year, from refusing to stand for the national anthem during National Football League games to his involvement with the Black Lives Matter Movement, and now, the activist is currently on the hunt for a new job within the NFL – something that has caught the attention of not only football fans and players, but also the President of the United States.
What began in August 2016 as the decision to kneel during the “Star-Spangled Banner” in protest of how minorities are treated by police has made its way to present day, March 2017, as Kaepernick’s status as a free agent in the NFL is causing football general managers to take a step back before considering signing the former superstar quarterback. Though Kaepernick has stated that he will once again stand for the anthem next season after seeing significant improvements in the country’s race relations, he is no longer on an NFL roster, patiently waiting to be signed as players far below his playing capability are scooped up by teams left and right.
Other players around the league have taken notice of Kaepernick’s lack of contract, with standouts such as the Seattle Seahawk’s cornerback Richard Sherman – a former rival of Kaepernick’s – going as far as saying the quarterback is being treated unfairly during an appearance on ESPN First Take on Friday.
“…There was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So, it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before,” said Sherman.
Once Kaepernick earned back the 49ers’ starting job at quarterback last season, he proceeded to throw 16 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions, and his interception rate of 1.2 percent was the lowest of his career. His touchdown rate of 4.8 percent was the second highest he has posted as an NFL quarterback, and in his last four games of the season he averaged a 68.7 percent completion rate and 199 yards per game – stellar stats for a quarterback that no one wants to sign.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Kaepernick’s free agency during a rally in Louisville, Kentucky Monday night, relaying a report by Bleacher Report’s NFL scribe Mike Freeman in which Freeman quotes an anonymous AFC general manager who said teams may be wary of political backlash and a tweet from Trump if they sign Kaepernick.
“Your San Francisco quarterback, I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” said Trump, followed by boos from the crowd. “…There was an article today, it’s reported, that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Can you believe that?”
The crowd cheers.
“I said, if I remember that one I’m going to report it to the people of Kentucky because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag, right?”
In one simple statement, Trump made his message to NFL general managers clear: Sign Kaepernick and feel the wrath of my tweets, along with the wrath of the United States citizens who voted for me.
However silly it may seem, the threat from Trump is a viable one. Most of his tweets garner nearly 10,000 retweets each, and he has almost 27 million followers on his personal Twitter account. Prior to his election, the President made it clear he did not approve of Kaepernick’s chosen form of protest.
“I think it’s personally not a good thing,” he told a Seattle radio station last August. “I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a new country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.”
In spite of it all, Kaepernick hasn’t let the President’s comments or lack of an NFL contract get to him. Although he pledged to end his anthem protest, his fight for civil rights continues.
He has already made good on his promise to make a difference in the community through his “Million Dollar Pledge,” a guarantee that he would donate the first $1 million he made last season to organizations that help promote social justice. He has already donated $500,000 of the amount to various organizations, and recently his foundation announced they had donated $50,000 for food and water relief in Somalia and another $50,000 to the Meals on Wheels program, which will suffer greatly under Trump’s proposed budget cuts.
From day one of his protest, however, Kaepernick acknowledged that the choice could cost him his job in the NFL – a reality that has become all too real now that Trump is President, seeing as the country’s leader is close to many prominent figures within the league, such as Jets owner Woody Johnson, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick and Broncos general manager John Elway, just to name a few.
Despite the President’s disapproval, Kaepernick’s protest brought athlete activism to the forefront of national conversation in a way that’s never been done before, and the quarterback gave a voice to minorities facing discrimination – accomplishments that some NFL teams may be willing to reward him for, rather than punish.
Kaepernick is a capable NFL athlete, and 49ers ex-coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t believe his time is over yet, telling PFT Live that he has told NFL teams to sign his former player.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” said Harbaugh. “He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”