| November 18, 2019 02:09 PM
Colin Kaepernick had an opportunity to prove he belonged in the NFL on Saturday, and he blew it.
The NFL organized a workout for the controversial quarterback, best known for kneeling for the national anthem during the 2016 season. He has not played in the NFL since then. The event was for teams’ scouts to attend; it would have been closed off to the media to limit distractions and to keep it focused on his football skills.
Kaepernick, however, squandered what will likely be his final opportunity.
He canceled his NFL-sanctioned evaluation last minute and instead opted to hold his own workout at a private high school more than an hour away from where the NFL had scheduled the original workout. Many members of the media attended Kaepernick’s workout. According to an NFL statement, the league was “disappointed” with Kaepernick’s decision — and that he was the one who wanted the media to attend.
Kaepernick showed up to the workout wearing a Kunta Kinte shirt, the main character in the movie Roots. Was he trying to send a message, as he did by wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt and socks depicting police officers as pigs in 2016?
Regardless of his intention Saturday, it took the focus away from football — which is the reason he’s not in the league right now. Remember, according to both a UBS poll and a JD Power poll, the NFL’s TV ratings dropped by more than a combined 17 percentage points in the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons, with the national anthem protests being the top reason.
Some might be impressed that Kaepernick can still throw a football pretty far based on the video they saw, but this should not be a shock — he’s 32 years old and played in the NFL for six seasons. Even so, he did not wow the scouts in attendance. Although one NFL executive told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Kaepernick’s arm talent is “elite,” NFL Network sources said Kaepernick looked, “essentially average overall,” and his ability is about what it was in 2016.
That’s the year when Kaepernick went 1-10 as a starter, posted a 49.2 QBR (ranked 23 of 30 qualified quarterbacks, according to ESPN), and fumbled nine times.
After the event, Kaepernick told scouts in attendance, “When you go back, tell your owners to stop being scared.”
To reporters, he said, “We’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. To stop running from the truth. To stop running from the people. Around here, we’re ready to play. We’re ready to go anywhere.”
Is this performance enough to justify signing a guy who hurt the NFL’s bottom line and has since donated $25,000 to an organization honoring cop killer and domestic terrorist Assata Shakur? How about someone who was photographed with controversial Women’s March co-founder and Louis Farrakhan-supporter Linda Sarsour? Unlikely.
There is nothing wrong with Kaepernick wanting criminal justice reform and worrying about bad cops abusing their power. Surely, there are people who want limited government or think police unions are overprotective and overpaid who could find common ground with him.
The national anthem, however, has a special meaning to the country and most Americans feel it is never appropriate to kneel for it. The Washington Post reported that 53% of Americans feel this way. Millions of people believe Kaepernick disrespected the troops by kneeling and tuned out of football games as a result.
That’s why he’s not in the NFL, and all 32 teams are right never to sign him. He’s bad for the game because he would rather be the center of attention in a game that is supposed to be a team sport.
The smart move on his part would have been to not protest during the national anthem, play in the NFL for as long as possible to maximize his earnings, and then use his money on causes he is passionate about.
Assuming nobody signs him, maybe we won’t have to hear about Kaepernick for a while. Perhaps this puts him one step closer to retirement. After all, the league was fine without him in 2017, 2018, and is doing OK without him this year, more than halfway through the season.
It doesn’t look like any NFL team will call Kaepernick’s number anytime soon — if ever.
Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports) is a freelance writer who has been published by USA Today, the Boston Globe, Newsday, ESPN, the Detroit Free Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Federalist, and a number of other media outlets.