Last year, the biggest story on, and off the field in the National Football League was Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Though many other players followed suit, Kaepernick is the only player to lose his job. Now, many suggest a boycott of the NFL for the sake of racism and social justice.
Many are quick to say Kaepernick did not lose his job because he is black, but because he had an awful year. Truthfully, Kaepernick had one of the best years of his career. Kaepernick played for a 2-14 team with injuries, no real weapons, a terrible offensive line and a weak defense, for 46ers standards. Though Kaepernick only played 12 games before being replaced by the abysmal Blaine Gabbert, he completed 59.2 percent of his passes, which was his third best completion percentage throughout his five-year career. Additionally, he passed for 2,241 yards, threw 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions for a 90-overall quarterback rating, in the top ten of starting quarterbacks. Kaepernick also rushed for 468 yards and two touchdowns. However, Kaepernick lost his job, and the likes of Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryan Hoyer have starting jobs. Even if Kaepernick were just a backup, he would be the best backup quarterback in the league.
What people seem to forget is that just four years ago, Kaepernick made the NFC Championship game and lost a nail biter to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. The year prior, coming off the bench in the NFC Divisional round in 2012 after a season-ending injury to Alex Smith, Kaepernick came off the bench to lead the 49ers to a win over the favored Green Bay Packers and accounted for 444 total yards of offense, breaking Michael Vick’s record for rushing yards in a playoff game. He would go on to lose the 2012 Super Bowl on the final drive after a huge comeback against the Baltimore Ravens. Many saw Kaepernick and head coach Jim Harbaugh as the next great quarterback/head coach duo in the game. However, after going 8-8 the next season, the 49ers fired Harbaugh. However, it was because the ownership had a beef with Harbaugh, one of the best college coaches of all time.
Therein lies the problem. The NFL ownership has an excessive amount of power. The power that matters the most to the league and particularly Commissioner Rodger Goodell; money. All but two majority owners, Shahid Kahn of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kim Pegula of the Buffalo Bills, are old, rich, white men. Many come from banking or oil backgrounds. Presumably, they were so offended by Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem that they refused to funnel more money into the $62.9 billion-dollar league. Essentially, it was all money and racism. Additionally, out of 92 North American professional sports teams, only one is owned by an African-American; Michael Jordan.
Being from Reno, NV and having gone to the University of Nevada, Reno where Kaepernick was given his only division-1 football scholarship offer by hall-of-fame college football coach Chris Ault, I am biased. I have been a fan of Kaepernick since he led the mid-major Western Athletic Conference team to a win over No. 3 Boise State and brought home the win No. 12 Wolf Pack in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Many from Reno know Kaepernick. He has come back many times, only being three and a half hours away in San Francisco. He has also given a great deal of money back to the University and the city of Reno. He is a folk hero there. While at the University of Nevada, Kaepernick became the only college quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000. Additionally, Kaepernick was a 4.0 GPA student and turned down the opportunity to play Major League Baseball, arguably his better sport, to go to the university.
Kaepernick has become the face of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has donated over $700,000 to the movement. He chose to kneel to bring attention to police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men and women. People decided to take this as a swipe at the police and military, despite Kaepernick continually elaborating it was to use his platform to bring awareness to the issue. He also received support from many in the military who pointed out the national anthem has many racist and outdated elements. The U.S. is one of the most excessively nationalist nations as it is.
Kaepernick received criticism unsurprisingly from Trump. Right after, and after Trump cut the funding to it, Kaepernick donated $50,000 to Meals on Wheels and $50,000 to the Love Army for Somalia. In fact, from October to April, despite not having a starting job, Kaepernick donated an average of $400,000 a month. Still, he is excessively criticized. Every year, current players or players come into the league with heavy controversy. Some have abused women, committed crimes, done drugs, raped women and some even murder (and gotten away with it). Yet, they get an insignificant punishment.
This season, starting with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, fresh off retirement, many players have kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick. Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks kneeled the next game. 11 Cleveland Browns players kneeled during one of their preseason games, with others, including white players, standing beside them showing support. Many others from teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders raised their fists.
Kaepernick has been featured on nearly every media outlet imaginable, including Time, which named him one of the most influential people of 2016. A rally took place outside the NFL headquarters in New York protesting the decision not to sign him. Kaepernick will be on display in the Smithsonian in 2018 in a Black Lives Matter exhibit. The NFL can try to silence Kaepernick and keep him from making more money, but they cannot end the movement he made. His courage, philanthropy and heart will never be forgotten.