Blaine Gabbert’s signing with the Arizona Cardinals last week brings one question to mind: Is Colin Kaepernick being blackballed by NFL owners?
Both Gabbert and Kaepernick, NFL quarterbacks, played for the San Francisco 49ers last season. Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem salute at the beginning of his team’s games in protest of what he deems as wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in the United States. He did it throughout the season.
In a statement to NFL.com, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people, and people of color,” when asked about what initiated his one-man protest.
He added,“To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Chip Kelly, then the Niners’ head coach, told reporters that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen” and stated that “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
Niners’ safety Eric Reid then joined him. So did Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, a college teammate of Kaepernick at the University of Nevada. Dolphins running back Arian Foster, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Jelani Jenkins also supported.
Martellus Bennett, the New England Patriots tight end, and safety Devin McCourty raised their fists after the national anthem, as well as Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Kenny Britt. Athletes from soccer, the WNBA, colleges and high schools joined in. Marching bands took a knee. Kaepernick was featured on the cover of Time magazine.
Gabbert, 27, spent the last three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He started 13 games during the last two seasons, winning four. He began last season as the Niners’ starter but was benched in favor of Kaepernick, regarded as the better QB.
During the season, Kaepernick, 29, completed 196 passes out of 331 attempts for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He began as a backup but became the 49ers’ starter in the middle of the 2012 season, leading the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. During the 2013 season, his first full season as a starter, Kaepernick helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship. In the following seasons, Kaepernick lost and won back his starting job. The 49ers have not been in the playoffs since and have had several coaching changes. He opted out of his contract at the end of this season. Recently, he was photographed in Queens donating boxes of old suits to an organization that provides suits to parolees who seek employment.
Kaepernick continues his charitable work, donating money, helping the less fortunate, proving to be one of the more socially conscious athletes out there, but opting out of his contract, testing the waters of free agency. Knowing that there may be unfavorable opinions of him among owners and general managers, another question has to be asked: Does Kaepernick still want to play?