Written by Kevin Lynch
As Colin Kaepernick is about to enter free agency this Thursday, he never realized that last year’s protest of the national anthem would blossom into a national story. He never envisioned gracing the cover of Time magazine and never thought his opinions on race, police brutality and historical oppression would be quoted world wide.
He has also discovered that dedication to two pursuits – social justice and being a great football player – would be viewed by many as incompatible.
But Kaepernick proved last year, that a football player can do his job and be an activist.
Consider that off the field, Kaepernick is a sensitive, thoughtful, shy man deeply touched by the lives lost to police violence. Appalled by the continuing racism and discrimination in communities of color, Kaepernick started his “Know Your Rights” campaign which aids historically oppressed children of color with their educations, their financial literacy and their diets.
He has started the program in Chicago, New York and the Bay Area. He hopes it will grow to become a national campaign. He has dedicated his time, his influence and more than $1 million to his cause and the result of his efforts and his protest has been a national conversation about police brutality in particular.
But Kaepernick is also motivated by his love for football. As a 49er, he spent more time at the team’s Santa Clara facility than anyone else. He sold his home in San Jose to get a smaller place closer to Levi’s Stadium to cut down on commute time. During football season, he’s so consumed with the sport, he only had two or three hours to talk to his girl friend, his family, his friends and to pursue his social activism.
Given all this, it’s not surprising Kaepernick decided to end his national anthem protest. He wants his football career to continue and he knows some teams are unlikely to sign him if he continues his protest. He’s also made his statement last year, so kneeling for the national anthem is unlikely to further the cause.
Kaepernick was willing to sacrifice sponsorships to make a protest statement, but unwilling to sacrifice his entire career, even though some believe his activisim proves he’s not dedicated to the game.
All potential suitors need to do is to call Jim Harbaugh or Chip Kelly and those two former 49ers coaches will tell teams that Kaepernick will likely be the hardest working player on their squad.
Kaepernick has also figured out how to put on muscle as a vegan and he’s back to being the buff Kaepernick of 2014. It means he’ll likely be stronger, faster and have more arm strength in 2017 than he did last year.
Coaches also might be wondering if it was Kaepernick’s play or a diminished offensive line and receiving corps that led to the 49ers’ poor offensive output last year. One stat might tell the story.
Kaepernick was pressured on 42.4 percent of his dropbacks last year, which was second highest in the league. Yet on those snaps, Kaepernick threw five touchdowns and one interception. That 5:1 ratio was by far, the highest in the league under duress. [read more…]