There’s no better place on Earth to talk about NFL players protesting during the national anthem than the Australian Open, apparently.
Nick Kyrgios was holding what, by all accounts, was a pretty relaxed news conference following his straight-sets defeat of Rogerio Dutra Silva in the first round of the Australian Open. Then, a journalist ventured a peculiar question about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest systemic racial inequality, among other causes. The question to Kyrgios ran as follows:
“You’re friends with the American football player Colin Kaepernick and supportive of him in the past,” the reporter asked. “What are your thoughts on his not being signed by an American football team this season?
“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him in my life,” Kyrgios replied.
“But what are your thoughts about that?” the reporter persisted.
“I mean, I don’t even … Where does that question even come from?” Kyrgios shot back. “We’re at the Australian Open, man.” Immediately afterward, Kyrgios ended the news conference.
Here’s the full awkward exchange:
— telegraph_sport (@telegraph_sport) January 16, 2018
The question was strange on a number of levels. First off, Kyrgios is Australian. Second, the Australian Open is, as you might have gathered from the name, played in Australia. Third, the Kaepernick saga is, for all intents, over and done with, as it’s highly unlikely one of the four remaining NFL playoff teams will pick him up at quarterback now. Fourth, this is, you know, tennis and not the NFL.
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season, and protests exploded across the NFL in the wake of President Donald Trump’s criticism of the league in general and Kaepernick in particular. Kyrgios knelt prior to a Laver Cup match in September, the same weekend NFL players began a concerted protest against Trump’s words, but Kyrgios said at the time it was a “personal tribute.” (Kyrgios has made his feelings about Trump known; he did an interview about a year ago with a T-shirt bearing the image of Trump with devil horns.)
For the record, Kyrgios and Kaepernick do share an agent, but beyond that appear to have no public connection. Clearly, the reporter was looking for some kind of statement, but got nothing beyond an awkward little story.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports, and NOT the guy who asked the question above, just so we’re clear. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.