Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season.
September 2022 will mark the sixth season since he was a quarterback on a roster — that is, of course, if he’s not signed by a team. For years, Kaepernick believed he was good enough to be a starter in the NFL. That may well be true. Considering all the horrible quarterback play the last five years, Kaepernick is right.
Since being exiled by team owners, Kaepernick has fought for his opportunity to start in the NFL. But now, Kaepernick is willing to play a backup role to get back in the NFL.
On the April 18 “I Am Athlete” podcast episode with Adam “Pacman” Jones, Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson and Brandon Marshall, Kaepernick said, “I know I have to find my way back in… So, yeah, if I have to come in as a backup, that’s fine. But that’s not where I’m staying. And when I prove that I’m a starter, I want to be able to step on the field as such. I just need that opportunity to walk through the door.”
To be clear, Kaepernick was exiled by a league run by 31 white team owners and one owner of color, Shad Khan, who is no longer willing to invest in the Black News Channel, leaving 230 people, largely people of color, unemployed. But I digress.
Kaepernick was exiled because he dared to call out white supremacy and systemic racism unabashedly with his protest during the playing of the national anthem, getting the attention of the entire world. Ironically, he remains out of the NFL as the league paints phrases like “end racism” and “it takes all of us” in its end zones as well as hiring Jay-Z to convince superstar Black music acts—who were once against performing for the NFL in support of Colin Kaepernick—to return to NFL venues, like the acts who performed at this past Super Bowl.
Yes, money talks and BS walks, but God certainly don’t like ugly.
The NFL is currently in a legal battle with former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is suing it and specified teams for racial discrimination in hiring practices. Two other Black coaches have joined that lawsuit. The NFL is facing congressional action due to unethical employment practices and hostile workplaces, specifically by the Washington Commanders—the same team whose executive laughed off a racist comment made by then-Monday Night Football host Jon Gruden about the NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, a Black man. The NFL also engaged in race norming, the statistical manipulation that underpays Black players in concussion settlements.
Colin Kaepernick wants to go back to that?
He does, but I am not sure that he should. I get that he’s worked his whole life to be an NFL quarterback and his ability to both play and earn was stripped from him unlawfully. I also get that unless our workplaces are Black-owned, there’s the possibility of racism or history of involvement with enslavement attached.
But there is a saying, “When you know better, you do better.”
I don’t shade Kaepernick or any NFL player and I can’t honestly say that if facing the chance to live a childhood dream and make millions to change the trajectory of my family, I’d turn that money down. But a dream can be a distraction just as easy as it can be a goal.
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As for the violence of capitalism… it’ll either compromise or kill us all one way or another.
But this decision lies with Kaepernick. I hope for his sake, he makes the right one. Hard to say he will, when we can’t.
Photo: Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during halftime of an NCAA college football intra-squad spring game, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich., as Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh watches. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .