Nearly five years ago, Colin Kaepernick was leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. Now, he is wallowing in unemployment.
The NFL is a volatile league, and careers rise and fall regularly. However, Kaepernick's floundering is a direct result of a number of factors, not the least of which is his beclowning of himself off the field. Like everything else in life, the National Football League is a political organization. Winning matters, fans' opinions matter, the owner’s political affiliation matters, and good PR is as important as your performance on the field. A team’s win percentage and bottom line can be affected by how a star player acts off the field, which is why Kaepernick's decision to make himself a political lightning rod is a confounding one.
In a profession which regularly hosts grand patriotic celebrations before its games and which salutes the armed services with regularity, here's Kaepernick:
1. Sitting for the national anthem.
According to NFL.com:
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has willingly immersed himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.
His latest refusal to stand for the anthem — he has done this in at least one other preseason game — came before the 49ers' preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi's Stadium on Friday night.
2. Kneeling for the national anthem.
According to ESPN:
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of racial oppression and inequality in the United States continued before Monday night's 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
For the second game in a row, Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid knelt during the song while teammates Antoine Bethea and Eli Harold stood and held up their right fists.
3. Wearing socks that depict cops as pigs.
4. Wearing a pro-Fidel Castro, Malcom X shirt, which reads “Like Minds Think Alike.”
According to the CBS Miami:
CONTROVERSY CONTINUES: At a post game news conference, Colin Kaepernick wore a T-shirt with former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. The shirt – which had photographs of their meeting in 1960 – read: “Like Minds Think Alike.”
5. Attacking Trump, saying America has “never been great” for people of color.
“He always says make America great again. Well, America has never been great for people of color. And that’s something that needs to be addressed. Let’s make America great for the first time."
Kaepernick naturally has as much freedom of speech as anyone in society. What is in question is the wisdom behind such controversial actions at the career risk of offending an enormous portion of your league's audience? The behavior quickly landed Kaepernick the title of most disliked player in the NFL. In such a political environment, it does not seem like a good business decision. Turns out, it wasn't.
After opting out of his contract with the 49ers, Kaepernick has been a free agent, on an increasingly desperate search for a role in the league.
The Baltimore Ravens looked at Kaepernick for a time, but the potential opportunity ended in a dumpster fire.
The Ravens were reportedly interested in the controversial quarterback, but his antics and those of his girlfriend supposedly doomed his prospects.
He had the support of the team's coach and general manager, but Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti was hesitant. That hesitation was proven well-placed, when Kaepernick's girlfriend tweeted a photo comparing the Ravens owner to a slave holder played by Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained”:
Fox Sports analyst Clay Travis wrote that the tweet doomed Kaepernick's season:
Every NFL owner will see this Tweet and think, what’s the benefit here? Why would I employ a guy whose problems exceed his talents, a guy to back up my starter that if everything goes well will never see the field at all, when he’s likely to do or say outlandish things that alienate the customers of my business? And when everything his crew of social justice warriors does will also create a never ending media circus around my team?
On Monday, The Baltimore Sun reported that the Ravens have officially passed on Kaepernick after the incident.
The Miami Dolphins were interested in the quarterback but went to great lengths not to sign Kaepernick in the end. As Independent Journal Review recently reported:
The Miami Dolphins have signed briefly retired former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to a one-year, $10 million deal after their starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, suffered a likely season-ending knee injury.
Cutler's one-year contract also includes up to $3 million in incentives, NFL.com reported.
The desperate signing by the Dolphins also means that Colin Kaepernick's chances of mounting a comeback as a QB in the NFL are increasingly long. The Dolphins were reportedly looking at Kaepernick as a possible replacement for Tannehill but clearly ended up deciding against it.
Plus, many Miami fans probably wouldn't have been thrilled with the signing given that Kaepernick also once wore a pro-Fidel Castro T-shirt.
The Ravens and the Dolphins were not the only teams considering Kaepernick, just to have the higher-ups pull the plug. According to ESPN:
Sources say at least one other NFL team has wanted to add Kaepernick to its roster, but the move was blocked by the team's owner.
Now, he is out of a job and without a team for the first time in his NFL career.
Today's entertainment environment is a political tinderbox. Audiences want a break from a seemingly endless stream of partisan preaching on both sides. The ceaseless culture-war loggerheads is exhausting, and the modern rally cry is, “Shut up and play.” Just ask the person in charge of ESPN’s ratings.
Kaepernick is learning the hard way that a majority of Americans prefer to leave politics at the door when we're looking for a good time.
Perhaps Kaepernick's next career should be in the political arena, since it's not looking likely he will have one in the football arena.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR