No calls, no text messages, no outreach at all. Four years after Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested crimes against humanity, and days away from the 2020 NFL season, team owners continue to keep him locked outside their gates.
Kaepernick is a proven pro quarterback forced to seek alternative employment. He finally was given a chance to return to the field, figuratively, on Tuesday.
EA Sports, which operates the hugely popular Madden NFL video games, reinstated Kaepernick, designating him as a free agent for Madden NFL 21.
“Knowing that our EA Sports experiences are platforms for players to create, we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin's position and talent, rates him as a starting QB, and empowers our fans to express their hopes for the future of football,” EA Sports said in a statement. “We've worked with Colin to make this possible, and we're excited to bring it to all of you today.”
This is the same EA Sports that previously sided with NFL owners, even deleting references to Kaepernick from songs. The company on Tuesday acknowledged this, saying it has “worked through our past soundtrack mistakes.”
Not only is Kaepernick back on the virtual field, but he’s bringing his signature touchdown celebration. A raised fist.
The news was greeted with delight within the NFL fraternity, which includes 49ers defensive tackle Solomon Thomas.
“It’s great that they put him in the game,” said Thomas, who was drafted by San Francisco shortly after Kaepernick was released. “It’s great that they recognized him and realized he’s still a free agent and should be in the game. He shouldn’t be banned form a league because of his stance on racial or social injustice. That’s a great step.
“The NFL needs to follow with a lot of the same steps as EA Sports.”
Thomas, a Stanford product, says he doesn’t play video games. He says this with a hint of remorse, as if he wishes he did. Especially now.
“I would definitely be using him,” he said of Kaepernick, “and trying to win some games against people.”
The Madden franchise described Kaepernick as “one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback” and also gave him a rating of 81, the same as Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and tied for 15th on the list. That places Kaepernick ahead of such starters as Derek Carr (Raiders), Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee) and even 2015 MVP Cam Newton (New England Patriots).
Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Kaepernick as the 49ers’ starter, has a rating of 62.
The decision by EA Sports is at least a symbolic acknowledgement of Kaepernick, his talent and his ability to attract the demographic that buys video games.
It is not, however, an indication that Kaepernick, 32, will wear an NFL uniform anytime soon.
These are, after all, NFL owners we’re talking about, and there is no Al Davis around to do the maverick thing and punch a hole in the punitive actions of his brethren.
These 32 men, all of immense wealth, have shown tremendous endurance throughout their collusive effort. They have been deaf to the sounds of the last 15 weeks, as millions around the globe march and shout against racial inequality. Despite this rising tide of anti-racism activity -- and fashionable anti-racism rhetoric from those who own professional sports teams -- NFL owners have yet to budge on the issue of inviting Kaepernick onto their properties.
They weren’t moved last November, when Kaepernick conducted a workout designed to authenticate his desire to return to the game and reveal that he is physically fit and willing to work.
They weren’t moved in 2018 when Amnesty International honored Kaepernick with its Ambassador of Conscience award -- the same award that went to the late, great Nelson Mandela in 2006.
“Seeking the truth, finding the truth, telling the truth and living the truth has been, and always will be, what guides my actions,” Kaepernick said during his acceptance speech in Amsterdam. “For as long as I have a beating heart, I will continue to work on this path, on behalf of the people.
“Again ... love is at the root of our resistance.”
Kaepernick has not compromised his principles. He is, out of necessity, making a living by means other than that which he prefers -- that for which he has spent most of his life training.
Bravo to EA Sports for reminding people that Kaepernick is capable and available. Now, if only the audience he has spent four years trying to reach cared to listen and respond.