It’s been a while since Colin Kaepernick drew football-related headlines. This time last year, when he worked out for the Las Vegas Raiders, per Sports Illustrated, is probably the last one of note.
Colin Kaepernick Says NFL Needs to Do More With Social Justice Efforts
The signal-caller turned social justice advocate is certainly prominent in his field, but his field hasn’t been football in some time — not since 2016 when Kaepernick created a media firestorm over his decision to kneel during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.
The then-29-year-old signal-caller went just 1-10 as a starter during his last season with the San Francisco 49ers.
His stats, while unspectacular, weren’t terrible by any means. He finished the 2016 season with a four-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio (16:4) and added an additional 468 yards as a rusher.
But Kaepernick’s lack of recent success in the win column and the divisive nature of his protest led to his ouster from the league following that season.
Every year teams are desperate for quality play at the quarterback position. Guys like Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Mitch Trubisky get a myriad of chances as so-called “reclamation projects.”
But before he turned 30, Kaepernick was out of the league for good. Despite his leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl (and an NFC Championship the following year) just a few seasons prior, no team felt the risk was worth the investment.
With that in mind, it’s perhaps not too surprising how Kaepernick responded when asked during an interview with NPR if he thought that the NFL had changed for the better since his departure.
“I haven’t seen any substantial change,” Kaepernick said. “I think there is a lot of work to do on that front. Obviously, not playing and being out of the NFL for six years is an indictment on where they are currently at. So I wouldn’t put them at the forefront of goodwill and best of intentions in how they operate.”
As noted by Fox News, the NFL proudly announced that their Inspire Change initiative had raised over $300 million in funds for “social justice contributions from the NFL Family.” The league says that this money is used to “drive further progress in police-community relations, criminal justice reform, education, and economic advancement.”
But to Kaepernick’s point, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the league isn’t systemically corrupt. It merely means that their PR department is hard at work to reverse that perception.
While $300 million is far from chump change, in NFL terms, it’s hardly more than a blip on the radar. After all, there are some individual players (not to mention league owners and executives) who will bank more than that during their careers.
Kaepernick, perhaps unknowingly, left plenty of money on the table when he decided to kneel for his cause. But it doesn’t sound like he’s regretful about how his career turned out, nor does he think the circumstances of its (likely) end should reflect on his ongoing off-field efforts to engender change.
“No. I think there’s this idea out there that those are mutually exclusive, and I don’t subscribe to that,” he replied. “So I think people are multifaceted and multitalented. And ultimately, that’s something that — we want to make sure that message is being sent as well. We have the opportunity to move forward and not be pigeonholed into singular elements of ourselves.”