The latest twist of the never-ending saga between the NFL and former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick occurred this past Saturday as Kaepernick worked out — a skills audition that falls short of a formal tryout — at a local Atlanta high school in front of scouts from eight NFL teams. While 25 teams originally planned to send personnel to watch Kaepernick perform at the Atlanta Falcons’ practice facility, Kaepernick switched the location at the last minute because of a disagreement about the waiver he had to sign. With all of the publicity that surrounded the workout, Kaepernick showed both why he likely won’t ever play a down in the NFL again and why he absolutely deserves to.
Kaepernick’s fight for social justice by kneeling during the national anthem and his subsequent blackballing from the league has been highly publicized, even spilling over into the political scene; President Donald Trump has tweeted multiple times about Kaepernick’s perceived disrespect for the American flag. Despite having led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance and putting up numbers that ranked amongst the top half of quarterbacks, Kaepernick hasn’t signed with another team since his release at the end of the 2016 season.
Many players, including Kaepernick’s former teammate and current Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, have been outspoken about their support for the disgruntled quarterback and insisted that the only reason he doesn’t have a job in the NFL is due to his protests. Some people around the league felt differently, however, stating that Kaepernick hasn’t found a new home because he isn’t good enough anymore, evidenced by the fact that it had been three years since he had thrown a professional pass. To put the whispers to rest, Kaepernick and his representatives worked with the NFL to arrange for the workout and set the date for last Saturday.
If everything seemed to be going along a little too smoothly, the events that followed probably didn’t come as too much of a surprise. Just hours before the workout was supposed to begin, word came out that Kaepernick had changed its location and pushed the time back. A statement from Kaepernick’s attorney and agent asserted that the NFL wanted the free agent to sign an unconventional waiver, rejected the injury waiver proposed by Kaepernick’s camp and also wouldn’t allow media into the workout. “From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one … Mr. Kaepernick simply asks for a transparent and open process,” said the statement.
The NFL responded promptly, defending its side of the drama. “On Wednesday, we sent Colin’s representatives a standard liability waiver based on the waiver used by National Invitational Camp at all NFL Combines and by NFL clubs when trying out free agent players. At noon today, Colin’s representatives sent a completely rewritten and insufficient waiver.” The organization also expressed disappointment in Kaepernick for not showing up to the workout since a video of the session was planned to be sent to all 32 teams. Although the majority of the scouts couldn’t attend the revised workout because they had to prepare for games the next day, the eight that did make their way to Charles Drew High School were treated to quite the performance.
With about 250 fans in attendance, Kaepernick had a terrific workout throwing to a group of former NFL receivers. The practice was very well-received, with the media members and scouts commenting that he still possesses the deep ball ability that made him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league, not to mention the great physical shape he has maintained. The reason for moving the event became apparent: Kaepernick didn’t want the NFL to control the narrative of his workout.
The league could have easily spread rumors about Kaepernick’s lack of preparedness to justify why he isn’t currently signed. By opening it up to the public, Kaepernick left no questions about whether he could still play in the NFL. “I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why,” he said to the media after the workout wrapped up. “Y’all been attacked for the last three years. Y’all continued to be attacked. We appreciate what y’all do. We appreciate you being here today. We appreciate the work you do for the people in telling the truth.” He even addressed representatives from the Chiefs, Eagles and Jets, saying, “When you go back, tell your owners to stop being scared.”
It’s time that a team finally heeds Kaep’s advice. As a Jets fan myself, I can personally attest that Kaepernick is better than at least two quarterbacks that have started a game for the team this season (in regards to the third, Sam Darnold, I’m cautiously optimistic). Kaepernick is undoubtedly better than most backup quarterbacks in the NFL, if not some starters — he proved as much on Saturday. However, the reason he won’t get signed was just as apparent. No team wants to deal with the baggage that Kaepernick carries with him. The amount of press that would follow him signing on to be a backup would be unprecedented. It would be even more so for a starting job. It’s likely that what transpired Saturday made front offices warier of signing him given the craziness surrounding the entire day. Despite his best intentions, Kaepernick’s workout hurt his chances of making an NFL roster more than it helped.