With NFL OTAs and minicamps coming to a close, veteran quarterback Colin Kaepernick still awaits to be signed with a team. One could argue that his abilities are no longer of NFL quality. However, there are clues that Kaepernick is getting the silent treatment from owners due to his controversial national anthem protest.
During his free agency, Kaepernick has still been vocal about the injustices of the American justice system. Upon hearing the verdict of the Philando Castile case, the free agent posted a photo on Twitter that compared a modern police officer badge with a fugitive slave badge.
“A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!” Kaepernick posted on Twitter with the photo.
The Seattle Seahawk’s interest in Kaepernick was a glimmer of hope that he would get a contract. However, Seattle offered a contract to 6-year veteran Austin Davis. The statistics between the two players are staggering; Davis only played 13 games in his NFL career and did not see a snap during the 2016 season.
However, Kaepernick did aide the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. Even as the team struggled to earn wins in 2016, Kaepernick ended the season with 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns; Kaepernick accumulated the stats after playing in only 12 games.
Why would a franchise pass up a former starting quarterback with Super Bowl experience for a player who played two years out of his six working for the NFL?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell argues that the Kaepernick snub has to do with his performance on field.
“If they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better.” Goodell said. “So, those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”
However, Kaepernick’s protests still echo through the psyche of football fans. While many team owners remained silent about the issue, New York Giants co-owner John Mara admitted how fans had threatened to stop attending games if the franchise offered Kaepernick a contract.
“It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, more so than any other issue I’ve run into,” Mara said. “‘If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game.’ It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot.”
USA Today reported that Giants fans sent more letters to the franchise about Kaepernick than any other subject Mara has ever experienced. Signing kicker Josh Brown despite knowing about his domestic abuse claims last year did garner attention, but not with as much passion.
Kaepernick’s national anthem protest was the tip of the iceberg to a movement. Since he started kneeling in September, he created the Know Your Rights Camp, a camp that teaches youth how to interrelate with police officers.
He also donated tens of thousands of dollars to several organizations throughout the United States from September 2016 to April 2017, according to Kaepernick7.com.
The former 49ers quarterback started a dialogue throughout the NFL; players showed both support and disdain. His long stay in free agent purgatory has also caused players to express their opinions.
In March, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman expressed on ESPN’s ‘First Take” show, how Kaepernick’s integrity on-field is not the cause in him missing a contract.
“It’s difficult to see because he’s played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams.” Sherman said. “It’s difficult to understand. Obviously, he’s going to be in a backup role at this point. But you see quarterbacks, 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.”
Seahawks defensive-end Michael Bennett also believes that franchises are shunning Kaepernick. Bennett told the 105.1 FM Breakfast Club how Kaepernick would have been a good backup for quarterback Russell Wilson.
“Of course, I think Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed,” Bennett said. “Nobody likes race and politics in sports. That’s one of the things no one really wants to talk about and for him to bring up race and politics, it struck a lot of people in the wrong way.”
Like many athletes before him, Kaepernick used his acclaim in an attempt to mend social issues in America. Muhammad Ali voiced his disdain for the Vietnam War and ultimately became a boxing icon. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of many athletes who boycotted the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and he still is the all-time leading scorer of the NBA.
Only time will tell if Kaepernick’s social beliefs and athletic talent will have mutual success.