Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
The death of George Floyd on May 25 inspired many to support the Black Lives Matter movement. With much of the country following stay-at-home orders due to the global pandemic, and the lack of live sports to view, the death became a catalyst to protests around the world.
The NFL players released a video to show support of the Black Lives Matter movement. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a follow-up video, said:
“We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier.”
The commissioner did not mention any single individual by name, but it could be interpreted he is referring to free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The NFL season kicks off on September 10th, but you will not see the polarizing Kaepernick on any NFL roster.
The 2012 NFL season is when Colin Kaepernick first received mainstream attention. Beginning as a backup behind Alex Smith, an injury to Smith allowed Kaepernick to claim the starting job.
Kaepernick’s dynamic play helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl 52 appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens, where the 49ers eventually lost 34-31, despite the stellar play of Kaepernick.
But 2016 would turn out to be Colin’s last season in the NFL.
In August of 2016, Kaepernick, who is bi-racial, was noticed sitting down during the national anthem for the first time. When asked about his action Kaepernick responded:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” later adding “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
A former NFL player and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer talks to Kaepernick into kneeling rather than sitting, out of respects Boyer says:
“Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”
Kaepernick’s kneeling ends up drawing the attention of both then-President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Donald Trump, who both have contrasting views on kneeling. President Obama views kneeling as “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement, whereas Trump was more blunt saying, “Get that son of a b— off the field right now.”
In October 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance for collusion against the NFL owners, believing that he is being “blackballed” from trying to resume his NFL career. The NFL reached a settlement with Kaepernick, reportedly paying less than $10 million to settle.
On Wednesday, Kaepernick made his virtual comeback to the league in Madden ‘21 with an 81 overall rating, making him one of the elite out of the 111 virtual quarterbacks.
But Kaepernick remains unsigned, despite staying active and ready for an NFL team to take a chance with him.
Now, the former athlete has remained active in protests and has made countless donations to many causes and organizations.
After Floyd’s death in May, many athletes across all sports began to speak up more on the racial injustices prevalent in the world, especially in the United States. Athletes also began to start taking a knee during the national anthem, just as Kaepernick had done years prior.
Kaepernick started a movement, that while still has many critics, others realized it was never about disrespecting the flag.
A 2018 Nike ad starring Kaepernick parallels what he is still thought of today. The result of the commercial led to people boycotting Nike, while others praised the company. The ad ran with the tagline “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”