Colin Kaepernick appeared to send a strong message to members of the NFL on Saturday: he’s ready to play, but he’s not changing who he is to do so.
The free-agent quarterback, who has not been a member of the NFL since March 2017, completed a 40-minute workout in front of reps from at least seven NFL teams on Saturday while at one point wearing a T-shirt bearing the name “Kunta Kinte” — the kidnapped African man turned slave at the center of Roots who is beaten for refusing to take his American name.
It was a bold statement for Kaepernick, but not one unusual for the former Super Bowl player.
This time was equally high-profile, the football pro attempting to prove that he was still in shape to play.
“I’ve been ready for three years,” Kaepernick told reporters on Saturday, ESPN reported. “I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.”
“We’re out here. We’re ready to play. We’re ready to go anywhere,” he added. “My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk [to] any team. I’ll interview with any team at any time. I’ve been ready.”
Kaepernick made headlines in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest systemic oppression and police brutality.
The move was quickly employed by others passionate about the cause, leading to backlash. A year later, in March 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers and has not been signed to a new team since.
His profile has only risen off the field, though.
In September 2018, Kaepernick took a stance for his movement in a Nike commercial, “Dream Crazy” — which featured the quarterback narrating an inspiring message about the power of dreaming big while encouraging fans to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The two-minute ad, which was part of the company’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, received the Emmy award for outstanding commercial at the 2019 Creative Arts Emmys.
It’s almost like his talent wasn’t ever the issue here? 🙃 https://t.co/XTrVNAoDrz— COMMON (@common) November 17, 2019
Saturday’s workout came in response to a statement from Kaepernick’s representatives on Oct. 10, when they claimed they received “little to no response” from all 32 teams in regards to possible opportunities for the football pro.
A total of 25 teams were scheduled to watch Kaepernick, but a last-minute venue change — from the Atlanta Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch to Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale — meant that only seven attended, according to ESPN: the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.
So why the venue change?
The curveball decision was made by Kaepernick and his representatives to “ensure transparency,” his representatives said in a statement obtained by ESPN, after the league denied them several requests.
“From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one,” the statement read. “Most recently, the NFL has demanded that as a precondition to the workout, Mr. Kaepernick sign an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues and rejected the standard liability waiver from physical injury proposed by Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives. Additionally, Mr. Kaepernick requested all media be allowed into the workout to observe and film it and for an independent film crew to be there to ensure transparency.”
The NFL responded with their own statement, claiming to have agreed to Kaepernick’s requests.
“We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout. He informed us of that decision at 2:30 p.m. today along with the public,” the NFL’s statement read. “Today’s session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants — an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout, shot by the Atlanta Falcons video crew.”
Though Kaepernick has not been a member of the NFL for a few years, that didn’t stop many players, including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, from supporting the former 49ers player during the workout this weekend.
“I think being a pro quarterback is very challenging in and of itself,” Brady said on the radio show, NFL on Westwood One.
“To have time off is a challenge, but Colin’s overcome a lot of challenges in his career, and he’s always found a way to produce. He’s very mentally tough, and I think it’s pretty cool that he’s getting that opportunity,” Brady said.