When former 49ers starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee as opposed to standing during the national anthem in a game in 2016, it shocked the world. Kaepernick kneeling started a full-fledged movement among athletes in America. By kneeling, Kaepernick and the hundreds of other athletes across the National Football League (NFL) and various other sports leagues made the statement that they don’t stand with the mistreatment of African Americans by the police and racial injustice.
Since the first time Kaepernick kneeled, his life and career have changed drastically. His actions received very polarized reactions from the public. Some praised Kaepernick for kneeling and taking a stand against racial inequality, while others perceived it as anti-American and disrespectful. The act of protest even got the president’s attention after so many players started following Kaepernick’s example.
In September of 2017, Donald Trump tweeted that NFL teams should fire players who kneel during the national anthem, making his position on the argument very clear. At the end of the 2017 season, Kaepernick became a free agent, and largely due to the controversy around his actions, no team signed him, including the 49ers.
In November of 2018, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL’s owners for allegedly colluding to keep him from getting a position. Kaepernick reached a settlement with the NFL in February of 2019 and withdrew the grievance.
Recently, under pressure from the media, NFL bosses organized an open tryout in Atlanta for Kaepernick to display his skills in front of scouts from teams all over the country. Upon being invited to the tryout, Kaepernick promptly refused and held his own open tryout at a local high school. In an interview after the tryout, Kaepernick said, “Our biggest thing today was making sure we had transparency. We weren’t getting that elsewhere, so we came out here.” Upon seeing Kaepernick’s open tryout, the NFL released a statement saying “We are disappointed that Colin didn’t appear for his workout. Colin’s decision has no effect on his status in the league. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club.” A few commentators, players, and media companies believe the tryout was just a public relations stunt to begin with, and the NFL has no intention to allow Kaepernick back into the league.
The Denver Post reported that “The QB was given a mere two hours to accept or reject the proposal. The league turned down his request that the workout be held on a Tuesday — an off day most weeks for NFL teams and normally a time when tryouts are held — or moved back a week or two to give Kaepernick more time to prepare. With the bulk of this week’s games on Sunday, it seems unlikely that any head coaches, general managers or high-level officials will be on hand in Flowery Branch.”
A gimmick or not, the tryout suggests that there will be a more politically outspoken NFL in the future. Meanwhile, Kaepernick’s future in the NFL is unclear. Hopefully he can be a professional player once again.