Colin Kaepernick Is an American Hero
The ex-49ers star has new priorities, and the NFL can’t stand it
The day it was decided that Colin Kaepernick would not be returning to the San Francisco 49ers came long before he opted out of his contract in March. It was back on August 26, 2016, the day the one-time franchise quarterback refused to stand and acknowledge the National Anthem before a preseason game.
Kaepernick likely knew right then and there that he was effectively ending his career—at least with the 49ers. More importantly, it’s likely that he didn’t really care. What mattered to him at that moment, as it has in the months since, was much bigger than football. It’s something that doesn’t compute in the heads of most people who subscribe to the NFL’s intense fraternity. Now an outcast, Kaepernick is ready to chase the dream of equality for all with a renewed vigor. The man is an American hero. Fight me.
When the NFL’s free agency period started in March, Colin Kaepernick was one of the biggest names on the list of available quarterbacks. With so many major franchises left burnt out at the QB position after underwhelming 2016 campaigns—namely the 49ers, the Jets, the Bears, the Bills, the Browns, the Rams, the Texans and the Broncos—it was, at the time, a foregone conclusion that one of those teams would need Kaepernick’s services enough to make them look past the “distractions” he would bring to their locker room and offer him a contract.
As the University of Nevada alum sat at home waiting on a GM to give him a call, his options disappeared. The 49ers decided to start from scratch. The Jets went with Josh McCown (equal amount of touchdowns and interceptions last year as Kaep—less than 10 on each side). The Bears gambled so hard on a QB in last month’s draft, the boos from the fanbase made national headlines. Teams seemed willing to do just about anything to avoid signing Colin Kaepernick for the upcoming season.
With NFL execs hiding behind Kaepernick’s alleged “decline,” the media—particularly conservative outlets—took the liberty of smearing Kaep’s name while he looked for work. On March 20, Fox Sports published a story claiming to contain the “real reason” Kaepernick was unemployed with the draft quickly approaching. Dieter Kurtenbach wrote that thinking Kaepernick was being “blackballed for his National Anthem” protests was “misplaced energy,” then he postulated that Kaep was unemployed simply because he was a bad quarterback.
Okay, Dieter. Let’s play a game. It’s called “Google.” Just how bad is Colin Kaepernick? In 2016, on a 49ers team with fewer offensive weapons than some NCAA teams, he posted a 90.7 passer rating. Here’s a list of quarterbacks who didn’t have a passer rating equal to or above 90.7 last season. Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston, Eli Manning and Cam Newton. Must be a shitty group of QBs, right? As it happens, those players boast four Super Bowl appearances and three victories.
So let’s be honest. We know what’s going on. But that hasn’t deterred Kaepernick, nor altered his demeanor during public appearances. To be honest, he looks downright thrilled about the idea that he might get a year off from some bulldog coach barking insults into his helmet. His approach to potential unemployment makes the NFL seem so very small—their leverage dissolved with Kaep’s nonchalance towards what would be a ripping conundrum for many.
Instead, the former Pro Bowler will be busy conducting several youth workshops, like his heralded Know Your Rights program. He’s donated large amounts of money to several organizations, including $50,000 to Meals on Wheels, plus $25,000 gifts to the Urban Underground, Mothers Against Police Brutality and more. In fact, Kaepernick has promised to donate a total of $1 million to groups and organizations supporting various causes, and he appears intent on meeting that mark.
It begs a comparison to a certain late legend, Cassius Clay, also known as Muhammad Ali. The historically great boxer and activist once refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army during Vietnam War because he was aconscientious objector, and was forced into a jail stint because of it. He rarely allowed an unfair indictment of his core beliefs in the media to go unchallenged, even if it meant bringing a dark cloud to his stellar athletic record. During this pivotal part of Kaepernick’s career, when most of his contemporaries would be more focused on proving that they’re worth a contract offer, Kaepernick, like Ali, has tossed aside greatness in sport for a greatness of another kind. The kind of greatness that isn’t decided on turf or in a ring.
And money isn’t the only resource Kaepernick donates. Here he is last month in New York City, giving out full suits to people outside parole offices.
Look at the smile on that man’s face. Do-rag tied tightly, sweat-shorts in tow, not giving one sliver of a fuck about what an NFL owner has to say about how much of a disgrace he is for speaking his mind. Kaepernick isn’t doing this as a way to appeal to the league’s philanthropic side to get back into the league. In fact, despite the fact that he’s in line to be without a job this fall, Kaepernick isn’t pandering to media personalities or writing Player’s Tribune editorials—no shots to PT, love you guys—explaining that football is still his first love and that he’d like to be given a chance. Nope. He decided on August 26 that there are things much bigger than football, which means if football no longer wants him, he no longer wants it. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King, 49ers officials suggest that part of the reason Kaepernick wasn’t offered a contract to return was because, frankly, he didn’t seem all that worried about the alternative.
Damn right he’s an American hero.
At some point during the season, one of the aforementioned NFL teams is going to be heading toward a miserable year. Most, if not all of them, have shaky-at-best plans for the QB position and will be pressed by sports analysts across the country about their unwillingness to sign Kaepernick, who has proven at several stages that he has what it takes to win in the NFL. And when Kaepernick’s name is brought up, someone will obligatorily mention his kneeling during the Anthem, or the fact that he’s a “bad” quarterback. That person will likely be unable to discuss the stats that make Kaepernick a “bad” quarterback, or be able to detail exactly why Kaepernick took a knee during the season in the first place. Then, two minutes later, when a producer whispers in their ear that it’s time to move on to the next segment, that person will feign a show of empathy into the camera, tap some papers on their desk, and start talking about Tom Brady’s “lost” Super Bowl jersey or some shit.
And Kaepernick? He’ll be posted outside the parole office. There’s work to be done.