Kaepernick’s name is like a forbidden curse word in locker rooms and TV broadcasts, but he’s still loved by his NFL brothers.
It has been two and a half years since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested police brutality, social and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem of an NFL preseason game. The energy and bravery of his protests spread like wildfire. People across the sports and entertainment landscape, middle school athletes to his brothers in the pros, stood with Kaepernick.
Despite the national attention and critical acclaim that Kaepernick’s protest garnered, he still hasn’t gotten another NFL gig. As we enter the stretch run of the 2018-19 NFL Playoffs, his name is like a forbidden a curse word in NFL locker rooms and TV broadcasts.
At the same time, sources close to Kaep tell The Shadow League that people shouldn’t think the sacrifice he made has been forgotten by his close friends and NFL family.
“Colin is one of my close friends and I wish him the best, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Dontrelle Inman told the Shadow League on Friday, as his Indy team prepares to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Saturday’s AFC Divisional playoff game. “I wish somebody would give him a shot and I wish that he gets the opportunity to still do the thing he loves and that’s play football.”
After Colin Kaepernick was black balled out of the league and Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Bolden’s Players Coalition struck a financial peace treaty with NFL owners, last year’s playoffs went off without any political or social protests.
Such acts of social bravery have remained virtually non-existen, but the effects of Kaepernick’s moment in time are still being felt. On Friday, the National Football League announced the launch of its Inspire Change initiative, which will center on the collaborative efforts of players, owners and the league as a whole to enact positive change in underserved communities across the country with primary focuses education and economic advancement, police and community relationsand criminal justice reform.
These positive strides have unfortunately been taken with an understanding that Kaepernick will not be involved in any negotiations.
.@TheAtlantic Colin Kaepernick’s Shadow Still Looms Over the NFL
As the league begins its 2018 regular season, a player whose presence it hoped would fade from view is very much in the spotlight—and on multiple fronts. https://t.co/CaUehJMdDl
— Kat Godspell (NOW Unplugged) 🏴🚩✊🏿🆘 (@KatGodspell) September 6, 2018
Inman says Kaepernick’s struggle is still in the hearts of his NFL family.
“The playoffs are right now and everybody is focused on their opponent and it’s actually do or die and were not trying to go home,” Inman told The Shadow League. “(Kaepernick being blackballed) was mentioned for sure in the locker rooms early on in the year because everybody thinks he still deserves a shot. Just think about it…he actually got a team to the Super Bowl, which is one of the hardest things for a quarterback to do.”
“He definitely has the talent,” Inman implored. “I feel like he’s a player that should be in the NFL. There’s plenty of guys getting opportunities and second chances who I don’t think deserve it and they get it anyway.”
"@Kaepernick7’s a football player. As much as he cares about the community and he's done a lot of work with the youth and he cares about his foundation you see his passion there. But at the end of the day, he's a quarterback & wants that, in my opinion." – @NickCannon
Part 1/3 pic.twitter.com/vOUZwQZ8qh
— Know Your Rights Camp (@yourrightscamp) January 4, 2019
Once Kaepernick started winning awards and gaining overwhelming support and then received the NIKE deal, many recognized it as his moment of vindication. Inman says that’s not something he and Kaepernick discusses.
“We haven’t discussed the vindication part of it, Inman said. “We really just talk about football. He knows it’s wrong… I know it’s wrong. He knows he should get a job and I know it, so it’s pretty rhetorical to keep talking about that.”
So what do Inman and Kaep discuss when they are just chilling?
“Really we just talk about ball and how we came from playing Call of Duty in my living room to now and how much of a blessing it is,” Inman said. “We more so talk about how proud we are of each other. I’m proud of him for standing up when no one else would. Those are things we talk about.”
The @NAACPAtlanta is asking artists to boycott the Super Bowl, and so are 82,000+ petition signers. Add your name if you agree that @maroon5 and other artists shouldn't play the #halftimeshow in solidarity with @Kaepernick7: https://t.co/dsqN2ckskuhttps://t.co/rBPXhGmdFK
— Change.org (@Change) January 9, 2019
So when the Colts take the field on Saturday for the NFL Disional Playoffs, there will be at least one player on the field carying the spirit of Colin Kaepernick with him throughout the game.
The NFL may want to act like Kaepernick never existed, but the country is still rooting for him and so is his NFL brethern.