Is Kap's Return Cap?

by Sammy Krem

Why Colin Kaepernick will never play an NFL game

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Kaepernick kneels during the playing of the national anthem

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er starting quarterback has been a controversial figure since the NFL sacked him after peacefully protesting during games. With the return of less-qualified ex-NFL players, his legacy as a big arm dual-threat quarterback, and a history of offers from other leagues, it seems that Kaepernick should play football in no time, but, in reality, Kaepernick will not play another game in the NFL due to his strained relationship with the teams.

Kaepernick’s protests, which hurt the league’s patriotic image, contributed to his dismissal from the league. In September 2016, Kaepernick started kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial issues. He was backed by many other football players and celebrities such as President Obama and Rihanna, but this support could not save the former quarterback's image. Kaepernick faced backlash from many fans, including President Donald Trump, who called for the quarterback's suspension, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who “didn't necessarily agree with what he was doing.” That season, millions of viewers boycotted the league because they perceived Kaepernick’s actions as unpatriotic. In response to lost viewership, Goodell banned kneeling.

With Kaepernick’s football skills, why haven’t teams re-signed him? NFL teams receive the majority of their revenue from TV deals and ticket sales. Due to his negative effects on revenue, teams not signing him makes sense from a financial standpoint. However, the teams should sign players based on skill and not on how much revenue they will create. After all, the NFL is a professional sports league, not a sports entertainment company. If the NFL were about entertainment, teams might as well sign famous actors to increase their revenue. Barring Kaepernick from the league based on a well-intentioned political statement instead of his accolades (which are quite impressive) or work ethic is immoral.

Many people blame Kaepernick for his lackluster performances, but they were not necessarily his fault. That season, Colin played in 12 games, winning only two of them, but finished with a 90.6 quarterback rating, which was his third-best rating of all time; the second-most quarterback rushing yards; and an impressive career-low 1.2% interception percentage. Despite some of his statistics ranking close to league highs, Kaepernick has not played an NFL game for 4 games. Though critics of Kaepernick’s protests may blame the 49ers’ struggles that season on him, it was actually due to the subpar team that surrounded Kaepernick. For instance, the 49ers’ ranked last in points allowed and had a young inexperienced roster.

Kaepernick later rejected offers from the Alliance of American Football (AAF) and the Xtreme Football League (XFL) because they could not afford his requested salary of 20 million dollars. NFL teams also invited Kaepernick to a private tryout in the fall of 2019. Kaepernick and NFL teams argued about the liability waivers, rendering the tryout unsuccessful.

Colin Kaepernick has the character and ability to rejoin the NFL. People tend to forget how dangerous the dual-threat quarterback once was. In the 2013-2014 season, he led his team to the Superbowl, broke the quarterback rushing record, and ranked as the 12th-best quarterback that season. He even signed a six-year 126 million dollar contract in the same season. The fact that he is now only 32 years old and in the best shape of his life proves that he could perform at his former level with an average offense. Furthermore, Kaepernick does not have any personal issues or a criminal history that could contribute to less playing time and affect his reputation. However, other NFL players with troubled pasts have received second chances. Aldon Smith, for instance, a former All-Pro Linebacker who was charged with a DUI and a hit-and-run, is now a starter for the Dallas Cowboys after a five-year absence from the NFL. Iconic quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced to almost two years in jail, signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles one month after being released. Kaepernick, on the other hand, has only been criticized for his protests because some perceive kneeling as a disrespect to the military. Thirty-two teams ghosting Kaepernick for peaceful protests is less justifiable than ignoring criminal activity. Even if Kaepernick cannot find a starting spot since he has not played in the NFL for over three years, he deserves to at least play backup quarterback. Kaepernick is more than qualified to play in the NFL. With his above-average credentials, why have no teams signed him since 2020?

Though a quarterback of his caliber should be in an NFL uniform, Kaepernick would not enjoy playing in the NFL. Due to the money that Kaepernick demands from the XFL and AAF teams, the chances of Kaepernick securing a position on an NFL team are slim since he would likely want at least the same salary in the NFL. Currently, many teams have talented starting quarterbacks, so Kaepernick would most likely have to settle as a backup. The highest-paid backup quarterback is Marcus Mariota who has a two-year, 17.5 million dollar deal, which falls short of the 20 million dollars that Kaepernick demands. Furthermore, even if the NFL continues to become more socially progressive, the faulty liability waivers, 10 million dollar settlement in the anthem collusion case, and Colin’s criticism of the NFL’s social justice initiatives as “propaganda” have soured Colin's current relationship with the NFL.

For these reasons, even if Kaepernick wishes to play football again, playing in the NFL currently does not suit his interests in social justice and financial gain. Moreover, Kaepernick can impact racial issues more than the sport of football. Sports can serve as a medium to spread awareness to issues that affect us diverse Americans. Colin successfully used sports to spread awareness and launch his career as an activist. The former quarterback no longer needs football to spread his message and will play a small role to change the game. He is better off fighting racial injustice rather than fighting tough defenses.