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The real reason Colin Kaepernick isn’t playing football

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Colin Kaepernick, having failed in his quest to rejoin the NFL, recently tried to expand his much-publicized activism to foreign policy. After the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Soleimani, Kaepernick ridiculously opined, “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism.”

On Saturday, Kaepernick’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, will be hosting the Minnesota Vikings as the top seed in the NFC. And there’s a reason why Kaepernick is spending his time pumping out bad takes on Twitter rather than preparing for the playoffs. But it is not the reason you’ve been given by him, Nike, or his publicists in the media.

Kaepernick is not just watching football on TV because he knelt during the national anthem or because he’s black or because he compares police officers to pigs and reveres Fidel Castro. Such opinions surely would not have offended the fan base in San Francisco. The reality is that he lost his starting job because he wasn’t good enough.

In 2015, well before his anthem protest, Kaepernick lost his starting job and then missed the final months of the season due to a shoulder injury. He went into 2016 having undergone three surgeries and was at a disadvantage to win back his starting job. When given an opportunity during the preseason game at which he first sat during the national anthem, Kaepernick had a lackluster outing, having completed just two of six passes for 14 yards, leading the offense to just one first down in a quarter. Before the anthem controversy became national news, sports reporters did not think he could legitimately win the starting job. During the middle of the 2016 regular season, after the protests started, Kaepernick was given an opportunity to start. He went 1-10 as a starter and fumbled nine times.

In 2017, new coach Kyle Shanahan simply said Kaepernick’s skills didn’t fit the new offensive scheme the 49ers would use. Kaepernick opted out of his contract and chose to become a free agent. Yet, instead of showing a willingness to be a backup on financial terms that reflected his value, Kaepernick was reportedly seeking between $9 million and $10 million, as well as a chance to compete for the starting job.

If Kaepernick were really good, teams would have signed him because they want to win. Even if some fans would have theoretically boycotted a team with Kaepernick on the roster, there would have been others who would have been inspired by his activism and purchased his jersey. You can get away with causing drama in the NFL if you’re good enough. Kaepernick was not.

Other players who protested in 2016 with Kaepernick are still playing. Marcus Peters raised his fist during the national anthem. Now, he plays for the Super Bowl favorite, the Baltimore Ravens. Kenny Stills has been kneeling for the anthem since 2016. Now, he’s in the playoffs with the Houston Texans. Eric Reid was one of the first people to kneel with Kaepernick, and he just finished the first year of a three-season, $22-million contract with the Carolina Panthers.

If Kaepernick really wanted to prove he’s an elite quarterback, he’d humble himself and play in the XFL or the Canadian Football League. If his quality shines through, it might lead to an NFL contract. But the XFL commissioner said Kaepernick’s salary demands are ” way out of our ballpark,” and he was reportedly never interested in the CFL. In November, Kaepernick canceled a workout session that had been NFL-sanctioned and held his own workout instead. Scouts described his arm strength as strong but his overall performance as average.

Instead of taking snaps, Kaepernick is destined to continue his PR stunts until he fades into obscurity. For the time being, he’s right where he belongs: on the couch.