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As the political tides around Colin Kaepernick are shifting, President Donald Trump is once again weighing in.
And his words may come as a surprise.
In an interview with WJLA’s Scott Thuman on Wednesday, Trump said that he would “absolutely” support Colin Kaepernick’s return to the NFL.
‘If he deserves it, he should’
— Scott Thuman (@ScottThuman) June 17, 2020
“If he deserves it, he should,” Trump said when asked if Kaepernick should get another shot in the NFL. “If he has the playing ability. He started off great, and then he didn’t end up very great in terms of a player. He was terrific in his rookie year. I think he was very good in his second year. And then something happened. So his playing wasn’t up to snuff.
“The answer is absolutely I would. As far as kneeling, I would love to see him get another shot. But obviously he has to be able to play well. If he can’t play well, I think it would be very unfair.”
While Trump leans on the assertion that Kaepernick’s playing ability was the reason he hasn’t been able to find NFL work, Wednesday’s statement is a far cry from “get that son of a bitch off the field.”
New light on Kaepernick amid George Floyd reckoning
Trump’s declaration on Wednesday arrives as the United States deals with the race relations reckoning prompted by the death of George Floyd.
After weeks of nationwide protests over Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police, the NFL shifted its stance on player protests with commissioner Roger Goodell declaring “Black Lives Matter” and admitting the league was wrong for discouraging protests.
Meanwhile, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that a majority of Americans support NFL players’ right to protest.
Trump’s fiery stance against Kaepernick
Trump is largely viewed as a driving force for Kaepernick’s banishment from the NFL after making his protests of social injustice and police brutality a central theme of his political platform. His statement at a 2017 political rally in Alabama further enflamed the debate over kneeling during the national anthem as a form of political protest.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’,” Trump said. “You know, some owner is gonna do that.
“He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Ex-NFL exec: Controversy kept Kaepernick out
Kaepernick has been out of the league since 2016 after six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers that included a trip to the Super Bowl. He was 29 years old when he last played an NFL game. While his detractors often pointed to his performance as a reason for his absence, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart admitted in May that controversy was was kept him out of work.
“No teams wanted to sign a player — even one as talented as Kaepernick — whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business,” Lockhart wrote in a column for CNN.
Kaepernick’s performance under center
In 12 games during his final season with the 49ers, Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while tallying a 90.7 quarterback rating. He also rushed for 468 yards on 6.8 yards per carry. Statistically, it was among his three best seasons in the NFL.
Kaepernick threw five total passes during his rookie year while sitting behind Alex Smith.
While Trump’s words on Wednesday come as a surprise, he has made a similar statement in the past. He told reporters during a 2019 news conference that he believed team owners should give Kaepernick an opportunity “only if he’s good enough.”
President Trump on if Colin Kaepernick should get an opportunity to play in the NFL: “Only If he’s good enough. I know the owners, I know Bob Kraft. They will do anything they can to win games”
(via @tictoc) pic.twitter.com/THgoNaYqIp
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 9, 2019
“Only if he’s good enough,” Trump said. “If he’s good enough, I know the owners, I know [Patriots owner] Bob Kraft, I know so many of the owners. If he’s good enough, I know these people. They would sign him in a heartbeat.
“They will do anything they can to win games. Frankly, I’d love to see Kaepernick come in if he’s good enough. But I don’t want to see him come in if somebody thinks it’s a good PR move. If he’s good enough, he will be in.”
Will Kaepernick return?
Kaepernick, now 32, still wants to play in the NFL. Earlier Wednesday, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said that Kaepernick is on the team’s workout list.
Whether Kaepernick will get another NFL shot is yet to be seen.
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