Story at a glance

  • Previous NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn't played football in nearly three years.
  • Kaepernick incited controversy after he began to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.
  • Today, Kaepernick is slated to participate in a private workout for NFL coaches, in hopes that he will be signed to a team again.
  • Many believe the workout is merely a publicity stunt by the NFL, one which mirrors what happened to black baseball players in the 1940s.

It’s been almost three seasons since the once-star quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, played in the NFL. After an impressive 72 career touchdown passes, 13 rushing touchdowns, 30 interceptions and a Super Bowl start, he ignited a nationwide controversy in 2016 when he began sitting, then later kneeling, during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality. His contract with the San Francisco 49ers came to an end and since that time he hasn’t played in the league or even visited a potential team for a workout. 

Over the last few years, Kaepernick has come to be viewed by the public as less of a football player and more of a prominent figure in the fight against social injustice and police violence toward people of color. 

“He’s bigger than the NFL.” Shana Redmond, the author of “Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora,” told The New York Times. “He doesn’t need this job back in order to continue being the formidable thinker and activist that he’s become.”

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL in October 2017 alleging collusion by team owners to keep him out of the league. Kaepernick and the league finally just reached a settlement this January. Now, as of Tuesday, he’s set to participate in a workout scheduled for this Saturday to be led by former NFL head coach Hue Jackson, who told ESPN that he just found out this Thursday.

The NFL reached out to Kaepernick’s agent, Nalley, on Tuesday morning to inform him that a memo would circulate to all 32 teams announcing plans for the workout. Kaepernick’s subsequent requests were all denied, including knowing which teams would be in attendance and moving the workout to a Tuesday when more coaches would be likely to be able to attend.

The unorthodox methodology by the NFL has a few people feeling uneasy, including Kaepernick’s close friend and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, the first player to join him in taking a knee during the National Anthem during their time on the 49ers. On Wednesday, Reid said "it feels disingenuous" that the NFL would schedule a workout for the quarterback on Saturday, a day that half of the NFL teams would be heading to games. "I'll believe it when I see it...at this point, it feels like a PR stunt."

One can’t help but point out the similarities between Kaepernick’s upcoming workout, which many are seeing as a publicity stunt, and the first time black baseball players were granted a tryout by the Boston Red Sox back in 1945. Pressure was put on the team by Wendell Smith, black sports writer for the Pittsburgh Courier and Boston city councilman Isadore Muchnik, who threatened to revoke the Red Sox’ permit to play Sunday games at Fenway Park, according to Space Coast Daily.

The Sox finally agreed and a date for the tryout was set, but one by one the four Hall of Fame baseball players appointed to supervise either dropped out or “couldn’t make a decision” on any of the players, one of whom was none other than the now-legendary Jackie Robinson. In their eyes, the political requirements of the tryout had been met, and the three players were left without a contract in sight. It wasn’t until two years later in 1947 that Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

There are currently 12 NFL teams who have committed to attend the workout, with others such as the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49’ers expected to join as well, according to sources. Some of the biggest names in the league have also expressed their support for Kaepernick getting back onto the field such as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who called him “very mentally tough” and said he thinks it’s “pretty cool that he’s getting the opportunity.” 

Said Kaepernick in a tweet on Tuesday “I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.” Now only time will tell if Kaepernick gets a chance to make his big NFL return come next season, or if history will repeat itself for the worse.

Published on Nov 16, 2019