Yesterday, Colin Kaepernick finally received his chance to work out for another NFL team, the Las Vegas Raiders. It was the first workout he’d had with an NFL team since 2017, when he did so for the Seattle Seahawks and their head coach, Pete Carroll.
The 34-year-old quarterback has been looking to get back into the NFL since he was exiled by the league and its culture in 2016, the season he first began kneeling during the performances of the national anthem at NFL games to highlight disparities in racial justice.
However, the workout is an indication of a cultural shift the NFL has slowly undergone to become a more inclusive league. Back in March, the NFL announced the creation of the NFL Diversity Advisory Committee, following its pledge to retain outside experts to review its diversity policies and practices in February.
The six-member committee lent its expertise and external perspective on industry best practices and will evaluate league and club diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategies and initiatives, the NFL said via statement. Including all hiring processes, policies, and procedures, primarily focusing on the senior-level coach and front office personnel positions.
After completing this evaluation, the committee will provide comprehensive recommendations to the league office and club ownership for consideration.
The initiative “aims to provide senior women and minority high-potential coach or player personnel exposure to Owners across the league to develop direct connections. Conversely, providing Owners the ability to engage with new prospects in a natural and personal way without violating the Anti-Tampering rule policies.”
— Kenny King Jr (@KennyKing_Jr) May 25, 2022
Timing & Inches
For Kaepernick, the timing is right optically for a return to NFL action. The league’s emphasis on inclusion is in tandem with the ousting of former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden for racist, homophobic emails sent to former Washington Commanders GM Bruce Allen, fired in 2019.
The quarterback recently expounded on being in lockstep with current league culture on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast. He also stressed the financial gains from standing on his social justice ground.
“You have ‘End Racism’ in the back of your end zone. You have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your helmet. Everything I’ve said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly,” said Kaep. “It’s a $16 billion business. When I first took a knee, my jersey went to No. 1. When I did the deal with Nike, their value increased by $6 billion. Six billion. With a B.
“So if you’re talking about the business side, it shows [it’s] beneficial. If you’re talking about the playing side, come in, let me compete. You can evaluate me from there. The NFL’s supposed to be a meritocracy. Come in, let me compete. If I’m not good enough, get rid of me. But let me come in and show you.”
In April, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis stated that he believed Kaepernick deserved a shot at an NFL return.
The Davis Factor
“I believe in Colin Kaepernick,” Davis said to Bleacher Report. “He deserves every chance in the world to become a quarterback in the National Football League. I still stand by it. If our coaches and general manager want to bring him in or want him to be the quarterback on this team, I would welcome him with open arms.”
Davis’ late father, Al Davis, was an early adopter of racial diversity. He hired Art Shell, the NFL’s first Black head coach, and was the first team owner to draft a Black quarterback in the first round with Eldridge Dickey.
For Kaepernick, who received an honorary degree over the weekend at Morgan State University, the tone and tenor of a potential NFL return may be the ultimate signal of the NFL’s attempt at a cultural shift.