Photo via Gerry Melendez / ESPN
Today, the NFL will induct college football’s brightest players into its fraternity, with the opening round of the 2017 draft. For San Francisco 49er fans, today might be the day they finally get their new quarterback.
But what ran the last guy out of San Francisco? Simply put, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick just took a knee.
It’s the story that the NFL wants the common fan to forget about. While known domestic abusers and players with rap sheets as long as paper towel rolls are consistently given second chances in the league, Kaepernick, the man who was brave enough to do what so many athletes won’t, is out of a job.
Kaepernick was virtually kicked out of the NFL following his national anthem racial injustice protests during the 2015-2016 season. The current blacklisting of Kaepernick has firmly cemented the NFL as the most conservative institution in all of professional sports.
And this conversation, that looked to be finally fading away off of the NFL’s long list of PR issues, has now been given new life. The free agent quarterback was recently named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2017, a strong accolade for an athlete who is unlikely to throw a pass in 2017.
Jim Harbaugh, who coached Kaepernick in San Francisco from 2011 to 2014 during a golden age for the Niners, wrote the article that appeared alongside the Milwaukee native in Time Magazine.
“At times in our nation’s history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust,” Harbaugh said on Kaepernicks’s protest. “Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or-most important-harming our own personal interests.”
Harbaugh was not alone in his not-so-subtle shots at the NFL for not embracing Kaepernick. Appearing on ESPN’s First Take last month, outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman asserted that Kaepernick was treated unfairly during free agency.
“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,” Sherman said. “So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before.”
It is true that Kaepernick has not been a particularly good quarterback for the last couple of years.
However, he is still a relatively young player who brought the 49ers to two NFC championships and a Super Bowl appearance. His unemployment status just does not add up.
Additionally, with such a dearth of versatile quarterbacks currently in the league, it is almost unfathomable how no team has given Kaepernick a workout or even a glance.
All this boils down to an unfortunate fact: the NFL’s brand and fan base are too deeply attached to overt displays of patriotism. Kaepernick thus becomes the ultimate poison.
Other pro leagues like the NBA have openly encouraged players to use their position as influential public figures to speak out on issues, especially those of racial inequality.
So here’s a message to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 league owners. Don’t turn your back on your Black players.
Someone take a stand and give Kap a second chance under center. Your team can become a league pioneer for racial justice if you just let him take a knee on your sideline next season.