There has never been a moment in history when the cost of freedom wasn’t high. There has never been a moment when those who sought it didn’t pay the cost.
Just ask former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Ever since he decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and the systematic oppression of Black people in the United States, Kaepernick has been paying dearly for it.
After all, this is football; America’s pride and joy. There’s no protesting in football.
At least, that’s how his critics see it.
Of course, there are also folks out there who won’t even admit that the controversy surrounding Kaepernick’s protesting is the real reason why he’s been out of a job since the end of the 2016 season.
Instead, they’d rather dig up his most unflattering stats and point out all his failures to create a narrative of Kaepernick as a talentless athlete undeserving of a spot on an NFL roster.
This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
During an interview via NFL.com, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said Kaepernick deserves to have a job, using Jacksonville as proof that he still has what it takes to compete at an NFL level.
“I can turn on the tape this week of our opponent [the Jaguars] and see that Colin Kaepernick deserves a job,” Jenkins said, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Malcolm Jenkins used this week's opponent to lobby for a job for Colin Kaepernick. pic.twitter.com/A5LmuvKWXs
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 24, 2018
Jenkins has also mentioned he absolutely thinks “that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed.”
These statements are interesting considering that just last week, Eric Reid, the Carolina Panthers safety who was the first to join Kaepernick in protesting, was denouncing Jenkins as a “sellout” who has given up on the movement for selfish motivations.
Nevertheless, Jenkins’ support of Kaepernick isn’t misplaced, nor is it wrong.
Kaepernick has remained unsigned while other quarterbacks with less experience and less talent have been given multiple chances to start.
Take Blake Bortles, for example. The Jaguars quarterback looked competent during the preseason but, as most fans predicted, he’s simply not good enough.
This season, he’s played three straight disastrous games that ruined the Jaguars’ 3-1 start and dropped them below .500. Yet, surprisingly, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone still claims that “Bortles under center gives the team ‘the best opportunity to win.'”
In contrast, since 2011, Kaepernick has “thrown for 12,271 yards, has 2,300 rushing yards, and 85 total touchdowns. He also helped guide the 49ers to back-to-back playoff appearances (in 2012 and 2013), including an NFC West title and appearance in Super Bowl XLVII (the franchise’s first in 18 years), his first season as a starter,” according to Athlon Sports’ Gabe Salgado in the article “5 NFL Teams that could use Colin Kaepernick.”
Not only that, but as a starter, Kaepernick’s record is 28-30 (17-6 with the 2012 and 2013 playoff trips, but 11-24 and no playoffs from 2014 to 2016).
And Bortles isn’t the only QB Kaepernick could easily replace.
After eight weeks and 10 interceptions within four games, it’s become clear that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston just doesn’t have what it takes to be a starter in the NFL. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but according to Forbes writer Vincent Frank, upon “entering this week’s action, Winston had thrown six interceptions and fumbled the ball four times in three games.”
His performance only got worse during last Sunday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, in which he threw four interceptions in less than three quarters.
“Jameis Winston single-handedly cost Tampa the game and he did it by throwing interceptions that no NFL quarterback should ever throw…Basically, he’s played in three less games, but has more interceptions than anyone,” CBS Sports’ John Breech wrote after the game.
Although Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter eventually benched Winston in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick toward the end of the game, the Bucs still lost 37-34 to Cincinnati.
Let’s also not forget about Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s disgraceful performance this past Sunday. He averaged a straight-up disappointing 4.92 yards per attempt, threw two interceptions and couldn’t even break 200 passing yards. This season, he’s also made less than 60 percent of his passes and averaged under 6.5 yards per attempt in three of his last four starts.
So @JohnElway crapped all over Colin @Kaepernick7, saying he blew his chance to join the @Broncos. Now he's dealing with @Chadkelly_6, who got arrested last night for criminal trespassing. Oh, by the way, Colin has never been arrested. Elway blocked me, so send this his way! 🤣🤣
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) October 23, 2018
There are at least six other teams in the NFL that could use Kaepernick’s talents and experience, but they’d rather start young players with barely any professional experience (New York Jets Sam Darnold, for example) than a veteran who knows the game inside and out simply because he’s shown, publicly, that he cares about the mistreatment of Black people in this country.
Football fans, team owners, the media and even President Donald Trump all say that football, and sports in general, should be a space that is free of politics. In fact, since the inception of sports as a respectful, professional endeavor, audiences have held them to be a sort of “meritocracy”: If you have the skills, then you can play, despite your race, gender or sexuality. And yet, a man is being persecuted and blacklisted from the sport he loves (and relied on to make a living) simply because of his political choices.
It just doesn’t add up.