Kaepernick refused to play the NFL’s game

By MATTHEW RITCHIE | November 21, 2019

The polarizing Colin Kaepernick finally received a chance to re-enter the NFL this Saturday. Well, sort of. 

For the past two years, Kaepernick has been essentially blackballed by the league’s owners and franchises after he sparked the league-wide anthem protest by kneeling during the national anthem. 

The protests against racial inequality and police brutality included Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and several other NFL players. 

Kaepernick and Reid had been fighting back with collusion lawsuits after neither were picked up in free agency for the two years — Reid was signed with the Panthers in 2018 — with each still possessing NFL caliber abilities. 

The pairing and the NFL reached a settlement earlier this year in February, with an arbitrator awarding the two with less than $10 million.

A little over a week ago, league officials reached out to Kaepernick’s agent to give him a chance to work out in front of a number of NFL teams. 

On the surface, the headline read like a win-win situation for both parties involved.

The league finally gets to put on a front that they are not actively blackballing Kaepernick, and the quarterback receives the opportunity to break his way back into the NFL. 

In a tweet last week, he shared his excitement, saying, “I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years.”

However, as workout details were shared, the legitimacy of the whole operation came into question. 

According to an ESPN report, Kaepernick and his representatives were unaware of the plans for the workout before Tuesday. In fact, none of the teams were even notified that this workout was occurring prior to the memo being sent out. 

Kaepernick’s team was given a two-hour window to respond to the offer, which is a ridiculous deadline to arbitrarily make. 

The NFL was also very unreceptive to any requests Kaepernick’s camp made. He and his representatives requested that the workout be on a Tuesday — because that is when NFL workouts usually occur — so that head coaches and general managers would be able to attend. 

With the workout on Saturday, about half of the NFL’s coaches and general managers would be traveling to away games. 

The NFL rejected this request, saying that the workout had to be on Saturday.

When Kaepernick’s representatives requested more information on the event, such as a list of team officials from the 25 teams that would be in attendance at the workout, the NFL refused to give them that information.

It all reeked of a giant sham, or at least gross incompetence, on the part of the NFL in the days leading up to the workout. 

Nevertheless, Kaepernick agreed to participate in the workout. And why would he not? In the past, he stated that he still was fully set on playing in the NFL again. The day of the NFL-led workout came, and the whole event fell apart at the seams. 

It was announced that any and all cameras — including Kaepernick’s media crew — were not allowed inside the Atlanta Falcons’ facility at Flowery Branch, Ga., the site of the workout. The plan was for the NFL to provide all video of the session after the workout was completed.

With only NFL scouts and representatives present, and no live video provided, any sort of negative evaluations could never be refuted by Kaepernick’s camp. 

He would be powerless to stop the NFL from running wild with the history of the workout.

This was obviously a point of contention for Kaepernick and his representatives. 

Why would he trust the entity that has kept him from playing football since 2017 to have total control of the only evidence of his performance? 

Allowing the NFL to determine the narrative, as they so often do, would take the agency out of his hands.

On top of this, Kaepernick’s team received a waiver that the NFL proposed right before the workout that contained suspicious language regarding his future claims about collusion or retaliation. 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk obtained the waiver, and after deciphering the legal jargon, made a statement regarding the legitimacy of the waiver in his article.

“If I were representing Kaepernick, and if the goal were to have a genuine workout aimed at enhancing his chances of being signed by an NFL team, I would have asked immediately for the document to be revised to specifically clarify that any and all potential employment rights would be preserved,” he said.

There was absolutely no reason for Kaepernick to sign the waiver and continue on with the workout. So instead, Kaepernick and his team switched the play on the NFL. 

They moved the workout to Charles R. Drew High School, which was an hour away. Kaepernick wanted to have his chance on his terms. He was not willing to sacrifice his dignity and value to come crawling back into the league. 

The alternative workout was open to all media and fans. Kaepernick wanted to have his chance out in the open, where he could control the narrative of his performance and allow his supporters to rally around him as a prototypical martyr.

Representatives from eight teams made the trip out to the alternate location to see Kaepernick display the same talents he held three years ago. 

Gathering as much as one can from a livestream of a Pro Day style workout with no defenders, he looked solid. He was able to complete the passes he should have, with seemingly the same plus arm strength he had when he played for the San Francisco 49ers.

He displayed the skills necessary to play quarterback in the NFL. He represents an upgrade from a number of starters and many backups across the league.

However, I doubt that this will do anything to get him onto a team. This entire ordeal was seemingly all about narratives.

The NFL threw together a makeshift workout, attempting to pass it off as a real chance to allow Colin back in the league. If they could make it seem like this was an actual opportunity for Kaepernick to be signed by an NFL franchise, they could rid themselves of this whole collusion talk.

With his refusal to comply with their conditions, they were able to convince at least a significant percentage of fans and owners that Kaepernick represents a distraction in the locker room. 

Kaepernick and his representatives were able to craft their own narrative: The NFL created a sham workout session to make it seem like they were attempting to reverse two years of blackballing. Even as he desires to get back in the league, Kaepernick never allowed himself to lose his morals or his dignity. 

By deciding to not play company man to the NFL, he solidified what all of his supporters already knew: He’s more than just an athlete.

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