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Colin Kaepernick Makes A Stand

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To say San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s career has taken a major downturn would be a vast understatement.

Just four years ago, he was leading the Niners to within five yards of a Super Bowl title and he was widely accepted as one of the best, most exciting young quarterbacks in the game.

Today he sits on the bench behind Blaine Gabbert, one of the worst draft busts in the last decade.

Fortunately or unfortunately for Kaep, we’re not talking about his play in his first preseason game of the season as the 49ers lost to the Green Bay Packers, 21-10.  Instead, we’re talking about what happened before kickoff, when the former University of Nevada star decided to simply sit down during the playing of the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after Friday night’s game. “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.”

The 49ers issued this statement: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

These actions are not going to endear Kaepernick to the 49ers organization, which tried to trade him during the offseason.  They also decide if the 28 year old plays at all this season.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Kaepernick has been a lightning rod for controversy through much of his short career as he’s been criticized for anything from his style of play, dress code-as he once wore a Miami Dolphins hat and was pictured doing so- and even his tattoos, which mostly read scripture.

This episode is certainly not going to help him with public image or endorsements.

As “American” as it is to stand up for the national anthem, it’s just as “American” to refuse to do so.  The perceived “disrespect” that Kaepernick is showing to the veterans and active military who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedoms is simply a statement through that very freedom.

Personally, I don’t know how this stance is going to help the cause that Kaepernick is apparently fighting for.  What I do know is that he’s bi-racial and I’m white, and I can’t possibly understand the outrage that he’s feeling and I certainly respect that.

In his position, where he would undoubtedly be released from his contract if there wasn’t more than $7 million that the team has to pay him, it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to make a statement like this.

With that said, let’s not confuse Colin Kaepernick with a Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown or even a Michael Sam.  Those guys all stood up for human rights and put their careers on the line.  From the outside, this “stand” by the former 49ers starter seems like a game of chicken with the organization that employs him to grant him his release from a coach and general manager who clearly don’t see him in their future plans.

The real question is how will this affect Kaep’s career going forward?

In terms of talent and talent alone, he will be a 29-year old developmental prospect when he inevitably hits free agency next year.  He has elite arm strength, but is yet to master touch throws.  One AFC scout told Football Insiders that he has “slow eyes,” meaning that he doesn’t process information quickly enough to go through reads that aren’t predetermined.  Kaepernick is armed with great athleticism and an ability to avoid taking big hits.

All of the factors into that equation likely leads one to believe that he’s a backup quarterback who will earn approximately $3-$5 million per year.  At 29 years of age, it’s highly unlikely that a team will want to build around him.

When you add in the off the field distractions, although he’s never been arrested and he does come across as a good guy, teams will be hesitant to bring him into their camps.  Any team with a young starting quarterback will not want to saddle their guy with a talented, yet erratic lightning rod as a backup.  Especially if their young quarterback isn’t yet entrenched as a productive starter.

It’s going to be a tough market for Kaepernick next offseason.  The stand that he’s made, although it’s certainly his right as an American to do so, is going to make it that much more difficult for ultra-conservative coaches, general managers and owner’s to pay him millions of dollars to potentially embarrass their organization.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.