For free agent Colin Kaepernick, principles trump tryout with Seahawks
No matter how systematically and powerfully the NFL has tried to tell its players to stick to sports, scared witless of jeopardizing its ability to profit off a fantasy, Colin Kaepernick and what he created by protesting the national anthem is bigger than any backup quarterback job when it comes with strings attached.
So while there’s certainly going to be a segment of the public that uses Thursday’s reported turn of events with Kaepernick and the Seahawks to wave their I-told-you-sos at the so-called Social Justice Warriors they despise so much, perhaps the real story here is that Kaepernick remains a man of exceptional principle.
Faced with a rare opportunity to potentially return to the league, Kaepernick refused to assure Seattle brass that he would stand for the national anthem this season, causing the team to postpone a scheduled workout.
Surely by now, Kaepernick knows what that means. Teams that needed a quarterback last season passed. He hasn’t even had a tryout since he last played in 2016. The more time that passes since his last live snap, the less likely it is he’ll ever get another one.
But at this point, any attempt to sign Kaepernick with the condition that his kneeling days are over feels like little more than a setup. Given his historical significance in the context of sports protests — and the fact he’s built credibility that extends beyond the culture of football — going back now on the league’s terms would do more harm than good.
The history of the NFL has given us lots of good quarterbacks, lots of bad ones and a whole bunch in between. But Kaepernick is a singular figure who transcends all of that, now the face of a particular moment in time where many African-American athletes who play sports at the highest level decided they had something to say about what’s been happening in the real world.
In the end, whether you cheer the boldness to protest wrongdoing on such a risky stage or would rather roll your eyes and just watch people hit each other, Kaepernick stood for the greater good and took the more righteous path. That he’s still taking it today, even when there’s now seemingly direct evidence that it’s costing him a chance to play, proves once and for all that he’s anything but a phony or an opportunist.
Whether you like what Kaepernick stands for or not, he continues to be authentic while the NFL continues to pretend the world outside its 31 stadiums doesn’t exist.