In a new video, the former 49ers QB works out and talks with four former players. “Let me compete. You can evaluate me from there.”
NFL owners and GMs are going to have to come up with some new excuses to continue blackballing Colin Kaepernick.
He still wants to play and is willing to be a backup. No one who has actually coached or been in a locker room with him has said he’s a distraction. Jersey sales have shown he’s got a passionate fan base that’s willing to show its support – with cash and credit.
So what now? Even if a team could find an actual football reason, Kaepernick had an answer for that, too.
“Let me compete. You can evaluate me from there,” he said in an interview with I AM ATHLETE that was released Monday. “The NFL’s supposed to be a meritocracy. Come in, let me compete. If I’m not good enough, get rid of me. But let me come in and show you.”
Seems like a pretty simple – and reasonable – request. One teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and even the Atlanta Falcons ought to eagerly grant. If not for the bald-faced bigotry that robbed Kaepernick of a roster spot in the first place, that is.
And before you all start telling on yourself, of course Kaepernick would have been in the NFL for the past five years if not for his protests to call attention to systemic racism, the police brutality of Black and brown people in particular. If the likes of Mike Glennon, Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Chad Henne can get job after job after job, there is no rational explanation for why a QB who took his team to the Super Bowl in his second season and still ranks fifth in career interception percentage – one spot ahead of that Brady guy – cannot even get a workout.
Except for, you know, small-minded ignorance.
NFL owners, and the people who run their teams, have been smart enough to not say the quiet part out loud. Instead, the story has been that Kaepernick really didn’t want to play anymore. That he was only interested in being a starter. That he’d be too divisive in a team sport.
Anyone who knows anything about the league knows that’s all nonsense. But because Kaepernick has spoken publicly so rarely, those “reasons” were allowed to take hold. In a sit down with former NFL players Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson and Pacman Jones, however, Kaepernick dispelled them one by one.
If he really didn’t want to play, he wouldn’t have continued working out all these years. He’s posted videos of himself throwing to receivers, and earlier this month worked with NFL prospects at Michigan’s spring game.
“What you saw out here? That’s five years of training behind the scenes to make sure I’m ready and steady ready at the highest level,” said Kaepernick, who sat for the interviews after working out in front of the trio for two days.
“You don’t do that if you don’t have a passion and you don’t believe you’re going to find a way on that field.”
Yes, even if that means coming in as a backup.
Yes, Kaepernick wants to be a starter. There is no elite athlete in his or her prime, in any sport, who thinks, “Nah, I’m good sitting on the bench.” They’re just not wired that way. They want to compete, and they want to do it at the highest level.
But after so much time away, Kaepernick knows he needs an in first.
“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,” he said. “I just need that opportunity to walk through the door.”
Lastly, there’s the idea that Kaepernick would be a distraction. As if that’s ever actually been a concern in the NFL. Look at all the teams that tripped over themselves trying to sign Deshaun Watson, despite the lengthy list of sexual misconduct lawsuits against him.
If Kaepernick was a divisive figure or had created locker room tension, someone would have come forward long before now to say that. And they haven’t.
On the contrary, Kaepernick’s San Francisco 49ers teammates chose him as the 2016 recipient of the Len Ashmont Award, which recognizes inspirational and courageous play. Former 49ers coaches Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh have both vouched for him, with Harbaugh, now the coach at Michigan, making the call to bring him in for the spring game.
Kaepernick said part of the reason he hasn’t been more vocal publicly is that he hasn’t wanted to feed the idea that he’d be a distraction. But he recognizes that his silence has given others the opportunity to fill the void with lies.
And to make claims that the NFL actually cares about addressing racism and discrimination when all it really wants is an easy photo op.
“You have ‘End Racism’ in the back of your end zone. You’ve got ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your helmets,” Kaepernick said. “Everything I’ve said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly.”
By speaking out, Kaepernick has called the NFL’s bluff. Either some team gives him a shot, or they’ll have to find new lies to tell.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.