The ongoing unemployment of Colin Kaepernick raises plenty of important questions regarding truth and lies and right and wrong in the NFL. But Kaepernick has done himself few favors when it comes to nudging public opinion in his favor.
On one hand, it may not matter; public opinion tends to cure quickly, and to become more permanent than a tattoo. On the other hand, Kaepernick may not care. Regardless, Kaepernick hasn’t helped himself — if his goal remains to get a job with an NFL team.
All we’ve heard from Kaepernick came from the well-timed leak to Adam Schefter that Kaepernick will stand for the national anthem in 2017.
“Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created,” Schefter wrote one week before the start of free agency. “He also said the amount of national discussion on social inequality — as well as support from other athletes nationwide, including NFL and NBA players — affirmed the message he was trying to deliver.”
Kaepernick has never said that directly, however. Kaepernick has publicly said nothing at all about his unemployment, his football objectives, his plans (or lack thereof) to engage in further public gestures or statements on the sideline, in the locker room, on the practice field, or during games. Apart from telling Shannon Sharpe that things being said publicly about his contractual expectations ($9 million or $10 million for 2017) aren’t true, Kaepernick has provided no facts regarding what he wants or expects.
To the extent that Kaepernick deliberately opted to sit back and wait for the phone to ring or for teams to line up to sign a guy who nearly won a Super Bowl in early 2013 and who threw 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions in 2016, the strategy proved that teams that should have wanted him didn’t, for reasons that seem flimsy at best. At some point, that strategy needed to change — if Kaepernick’s goal was and is to play NFL football in 2017.
We still don’t know what he wants, because we haven’t heard it from him. We still don’t know his financial expectations. We don’t know if he’ll take any spot he can get on an NFL depth chart. We don’t know whether he’d consider going to Canada if that’s what it takes to continue playing football.
We do know that he still has concerns about the interactions between the police and African-Americans and people of color, based on the tweet he posted in response to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile.
“A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!” Kaepernick said, with a photo of a modern-day police badge next to a “Runaway Slave Patrol” badge. Apart from giving those who already dislike Kaepernick’s views more ammunition for doing so, his tweet should invite speculation as to whether what was leaked to Schefter in early March still applies in mid-June, and whether the outcome in the Castile case makes Kaepernick inclined to kneel during the anthem, again.
Plenty of people have been pushing back against the flawed assumptions and false narratives being circulated by a league that stubbornly won’t admit he’s being shunned for reasons other than ability. At some point, Kaepernick needs to get involved in the process. Sit for an interview. Issue a statement. Write a column. Create a video. Do something to break the silence that possibly started as a sociological experiment to see whether he’d get the same attention in free agency that guys like Brock Osweiler and Mike Glennon did in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
With offseason programs over and Kaepernick still unsigned, it’s time for Kaepernick to address what he wants, what he plans to do, what his interactions with teams have been, and whether he believes he’s been overlooked due to talent or politics. Until he says something on his own on these topics, there’s really nothing more to say about his status.