One of the two quarterbacks to play in Super Bowl XLVII is now among seven million unemployed Americans. The difference between then and now is that back then, he was rushing for 181 yards in playoff games, instead of addressing racial inequality in the United States. Back then, the subject of his press conferences were football, not police brutality. Back then, Colin Kaepernick remained on his feet for the national anthem, instead of making a stand by taking a knee.
The decision to use his platform as a then NFL quarterback to bring attention to the many injustices that occur in a country that prides itself on being “great,” is the only reason he is out of a job. In his own words, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Before addressing the statistics, raw ability and winning history that support Kaepernick’s claim to, at the very least, a tryout for an NFL team, let us explore how this protest was made possible. Years ago, the U.S. Department of Defense and National Guard doled out over $50 million to American professional sports leagues in marketing and advertising fees. Prior to 2009, NFL players remained in the locker room while the anthem played, but as a military recruitment tactic, players were later required to stand during the anthem to promote patriotism.
The Department of Defense and National Guard saw an opportunity to foster nationalism through sports’ biggest stars saluting the red, white and blue in front of thousands of fans every Sunday. The National Football League saw dollar signs. It was a match made in heaven.
Now, halfway through the NFL offseason, Kaepernick cannot seem to find a match of his own with an NFL franchise. It is not a lack of talent keeping general managers from setting up a meeting with the dual-threat quarterback. It is not even an effort to avoid the “drama” surrounding Kaepernick, who has made it clear he has no intention of continuing to kneel in the 2017 season if he were to make an NFL roster.
There is an overwhelming distaste in NFL front offices with Kaepernick’s pronounced political stance. However, those same executives turn a blind eye to domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Teams like the New Orleans Saints had no problem welcoming Adrian Peterson, who served a suspension after beating his four-year old son, to their team with open arms. In essence, one can break the law and still make an NFL 53-man roster, but exercising one’s rights leaves a talented veteran on the outside looking in.
The simple fact that Kaepernick remains unsigned only further drives home his point of just how prominent racism is in, not just America, but in African American-dominated professional sports leagues. In 2013 and 2014, Kaepernick posted back-to-back seasons of 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards, throwing 20 and 19 touchdowns in those seasons respectively. The quarterback out of Nevada has four postseason wins on his resume to just two losses, including a Super Bowl appearance, where there are 12 quarterbacks with no postseason experience slated to start for teams in the 2017 season.
Despite executives’ efforts to shun Kaepernick from the League, haters’ attempts to discredit his African American heritage and even comments made by the President seemingly threatening teams to not sign him, his #7 San Francisco 49ers jersey was among the NFL’s highest selling jerseys in 2016.
In Dec. 2013 Beats by Dre released what is now an incredibly ironic commercial featuring Kaepernick. The “Hear What You Want” campaign included former NBA player Kevin Garnett and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman blocking out haters with the the famous headphones. In Kaepernick’s commercial, he is depicted taking a bus to a road game against the rival Seattle Seahawks where he is berated by fans. The only difference between then and now is the hate stems from his disapproval of police brutality and racism, which has been interpreted as being unpatriotic, rather than a simple divisional rivalry.
It remains to be seen if Kaepernick will have a position with one of the 32 NFL franchises come the 2017 regular season kickoff on Sep. 7. The quarterback has made his point and is ready to return to doing what he loves. However, if NFL executives are unable to see past their own prejudices and narrow-minded political beliefs, then #7 may have taken his final knee.