“Only if he’s good enough. I know the owners, I know [New England Patriots owner] Bob Kraft, I know so many of the owners,” Trump said during an informal meeting with reporters on the White House lawn. “If he’s good enough, they’d sign him. If he’s good enough, I know these people, they’d sign him in a heartbeat. They will do anything they can to win games.”
Trump’s remarks came days after Kaepernick, who last played in the NFL during the 2016 season, tweeted a video of his workout regimen and said he is “still ready” for a comeback. Kaepernick’s video noted that he had been “denied work for 889 days,” or the length of time since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
A former starting quarterback for the 49ers who led the franchise to a Super Bowl berth in 2012, Kaepernick was the first NFL player to kneel during the pre-game national anthem ceremony. Dozens of players later joined Kaepernick in protests against social injustice and police brutality.
Trump frequently criticized protests during the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons, at one point calling on the league’s teams to fire any player who knelt during the anthem.
“Frankly, I’d love to see Kaepernick come in, if he’s good enough. But I don’t want to see him come in because somebody thinks it’s a good PR move,” Trump added.
Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against the NFL in late 2017, accusing the league’s 32 owners of conspiring to keep him off NFL rosters due to his role in leading national anthem protests. The two sides later reached a settlement that was said to be worth less than $10 million.