San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines in August 2016 for refusing to stand during the singing of the national anthem prior to the start football games. Kaepernick reasoned that he could not stand for the flag when police oppression against people of color was occurring across the United States. At first, his protest was silent, but as Kaepernick gained attention, his cause gained him a multitude of both enemies and followers. His—and other players’—kneeling during the national anthem became a weekly controversy.
Some felt that Kaepernick was disrespecting those who have served our country, defended our flag, and secured our freedom. Some felt that Kaepernick’s stance was justified, sympathizing with the racial tensions and patterns of discrimination that have hurt the African American community. Others felt frustrated that, regardless of the cause, a player was politicizing the game of football.
On the field, Kaepernick appeared in 12 games for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2016 season, struggling to retain his role as the starting quarterback, eventually opting out of his contract in March 2017. Since then, no team has signed Kaepernick to a new contract.
It’s odd to think that Kaepernick once appeared to be one of the most talented players in the National Football League. He led San Francisco to the Super Bowl during the 2012 season and nearly led them to another during the 2013 season.
While Kaepernick’s skills and statistics have regressed in recent years, he is by no means unqualified to have a role as a backup quarterback in the NFL. Certainly, teams have passed on Kaepernick because they know his presence—more importantly the media circus that follows him—will be a distraction to the team. Thus, Kaepernick remains unemployed.
Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, an African American who faced discrimination and death threats during his career, recently claimed that Kaepernick is “getting a raw deal” from the NFL. According to Aaron, teams seem to have counted Kaepernick out for starting quarterback roles that he may deserve.
On the other hand, Jim Brown, a football Hall of Famer who became a face for the black community during and after his playing career, has taken issue with Kaepernick’s protests. While Brown agrees with Kaepernick’s views on race in America, he does not support “desecrating” the flag by kneeling during the national anthem. Brown also noted that Kaepernick may have to choose whether to be an athlete or an activist.
Kaepernick is not a perfect activist, which further complicates the issue. For instance, Kaepernick did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, despite dominating the media throughout the football season with his desire for change.
Although he is accompanied by these imperfections and distractions, Colin Kaepernick deserves a chance to compete for an NFL team once more. While Kaepernick may not be best suited for the role of starting quarterback, each of the 32 teams in the NFL has multiple quarterback positions: starting, backup, and third string. Some team, somewhere, could benefit from him.
Kaepernick could bring an ambitious mentality from his experiences in San Francisco and potentially mentor a younger quarterback. Some NFL players have glaring red flags, such as histories of drug abuse and domestic violence. If the public can look past those issues, it’s worth considering Kaepernick as a potential asset, as a football player, despite the distractions he may invite because of his attempts of activism.