Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor
Tea timers, it’s well into the football season, and 2019 was riddled with injuries. Quarterbacks dropped like flies, and a handful of starters left their teams after getting hurt, including Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Cam Newton from the Carolina Panthers.
Another quarterback who’s off the field is Colin Kaepernick. But we all know that has nothing to do with an injury. In fact, Kaepernick hasn’t played an NFL game since he was let go by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. Why is that? Oh, that’s right, he’s too politically involved off the field to be playing on it.
Kaepernick took it upon himself as an NFL player to begin kneeling during the national anthem in protest of injustice and police brutality against the black American community — it was a scandal. A black man dared to use his position as a professional athlete to protest an injustice that’s as old as this country. Didn’t he get the memo? Black professional athletes are supposed to “shut up and dribble.” Or, in his case, “shut up and throw the damn ball.”
Since it’s quite inappropriate to tell a black man he’s not allowed to speak his mind freely and practice his right to demonstrate peacefully, NFL officials and fans began questioning his abilities as a player. I’m a huge 49ers fan — well, I used to be — and Kaepernick was the quarterback during that oh-so-faithful 2012 Super Bowl game against the Baltimore Ravens. For as long as I’ve been a 49ers fan, Kaepernick has been our quarterback. He played for them for six years. Touchdown after touchdown, conference championship to conference championship, Kaepernick left his blood, sweat and tears on the field. All of his teammates and coaches can attest to that, whether they’re willing to or not.
On Nov. 16, the NFL scheduled a workout for teams to watch Kaepernick and assess his abilities. Unlike the NFL, Kaepernick wanted media to be present at his workout, so he decided to move the workout to a local high school in Atlanta. The 31-year-old unsurprisingly proved he was in immaculate shape with a high-functioning arm. It’s almost as though his abilities were never really an issue.
Come on NFL, if you’re going to try to soothe your seemingly guilty conscious over your inappropriate blacklisting of Kaepernick, at least have the courtesy to schedule his workout on a Tuesday when most NFL teams work out. Maybe sometime after the season with the rest of the 2020 recruits. Unless, of course, you’re in a rush to clear your name. I guess trying to settle your blatant racism and discrimination with less than $10 million wasn’t enough.
This workout wasn’t the NFL trying to make up for their mistake of blacklisting Kaepernick; it was an attempt at absolution from any liability in Kaepernick’s now-failed career. I may not be a commentator or a sports analyst, but it doesn’t seem feasible for Kaepernick to play again if he’s not signed this season or the upcoming one. With this workout, the NFL tried to rid itself of any blame. I mean, how can we ridicule the NFL if it gave Kaepernick a shot, right?
Wrong. I will fault the NFL for all of Kaepernick’s grievances. I won’t act like some rushed workout that barely brought half of the NFL teams exempts the NFL from the fact that it is just a mouthpiece for President Donald Trump. Don’t forget this drama was escalated when the President Trump called players “sons of bitches” for exercising their freedom of speech. The NFL may not have an official political stance, however, a large sum of team managers are white male Republicans. So it’s not so far off to assume they had no problem kicking someone who didn’t align with them politically to the curb.
Maybe this country didn’t learn from Muhammad Ali, but professional athletes protesting is normal. Blacklisting them for it is not. And that’s the tea.