With the recent news that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick bailed on a combine crafted specifically for him by the NFL, many people started to draw skepticism about whether he truly wanted to play in the NFL again.
ESPN host Stephen A. Smith shared his thoughts, “You see? He don't want to play. He wants to be a martyr. But, guess what? It ain't working this time.”
It was somehow the NFL’s fault Kaepernick opted out of his own contract. That somehow the entire NFL was out to blackball Kaepernick despite other players who protested with Kaepernick finding employment. Kaepernick was so good, despite going 1-10 in his last year as a starter and having games where he threw only four yards. Kaepernick should not only be in the NFL, but the NFL was racist if he wasn’t on a team. No, it was never Kaepernick’s fault.
I have to hand it to Kaepernick; he took his status as a declining NFL quarterback and became a social justice icon. It was brilliant for him to turn his benching into a cultural movement — which is what he did.
I believe from the beginning, Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem was an attempt to reclaim the media attention he received after taking over for an injured Alex Smith in the San Francisco 49ers run to the Super Bowl in 2012.
After being benched for former Jaguars bust Blaine Gabbert in the 2016 preseason, Kaepernick pouted by sitting on the bench during the national anthem. I’m sure Kaepernick had no intention other than to drown in self-pity when he sat during the 49ers third preseason game. No one asked why Kaepernick sat, and no one cared. Because everyone assumed, he was just pouting.
On Aug. 27, 2016, NFL media reporter Steve Wyche asked Kaepernick why he sat instead of standing for the anthem, since he did it for a second straight game. Kaepernick responded, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Just to be clear, Kaepernick went into full activism mode when during the training camp, Gabbert received most of the first team reps. It just so happened Kaepernick said this when the Black Lives Matter movement was in the headlines. It just so happened Kaepernick was calling for national attention earlier that year when he called for a trade after a season of being benched and outplayed by Gabbert.
“If the team really does believe in Blaine Gabbert, then Kaepernick is no longer the franchise and it would only make sense for the 49ers to allow Kaepernick the possibility of a trade,” the article states.
Maybe Kaepernick was truly authentic about his protest, but then why wouldn’t he say anything on social media or show any signs of his activism the previous week or even before then? If you start a movement, wouldn’t you want people to know? If anything, Kaepernick was okay with using racially charged language himself.
It was never about the cause Kaepernick was pushing for that mattered. It was always about Kaepernick himself that mattered above all else.